Students cultivate a garden of hope

Sometimes multitasking is a terrible idea — for instance, text-messaging while driving a car.

Sometimes multitasking is a terrible idea — for instance, text-messaging while driving a car.

However, some bright students in the Lake Washington School District (LWSD) have turned multitasking into learning opportunities that will simultaneously give back to the community.

National Junior Honor Society members at Stella Schola Middle School, an LWSD Choice school on the campus of Rose Hill Junior High, recently talked about a garden they’re cultivating behind a portable classroom. They’ll incorporate the experience into their science curriculum and donate their fresh produce to Hopelink’s food bank.

Stella Schola Head Mistress and seventh grade teacher Brigitte Tennis reminded the students, “The spirit of Honor Society is to be loyal to school and your community, helping out especially when you get no credit for it. … This is a way to take initiative and show citizenship.”

Three different grade levels will benefit from studying the Honor Society garden. Sixth graders at Stella Schola will do soil analysis, seventh graders will study botany and eighth graders will study insects and animals that are attracted by the plants.

Participants pondered which fruits and vegetables would be popular with food bank clients and which would be easiest to grow in our Pacific Northwest climate. Strawberries, snap peas, mushrooms, onions, carrots, cabbage, potatoes, squash and pumpkins were among the suggested crops.

The students purchased seeds after school on Sept. 12 and began their planting on Sept. 13.

“We don’t know how much we’re going to end up with, but things just kind of blossom,” Tennis stated.

Scott Milne, manager of Redmond’s Hopelink food bank, said about 10 or 15 percent of the fresh produce they distribute is donated by groups such as the Marymoor Community Gardeners Association and another five percent comes from individual gardeners who contribute their surplus fruits and veggies.

“Anything fresh” is always needed and greatly appreciated, he said.

Many clients, especially the elderly, are on restricted diets and can’t eat canned foods which contain a lot of sodium. In general, fresh produce just tastes better and is more nutritious.

“What we get from community gardeners is usually top-notch, because it’s just picked and stays in our coolers just a day or two before we distribute it,” he explained.

In terms of what food bank clients need most, “Our clients have a very diverse palate,” so a wide range of fruits, vegetables and herbs are welcome at the food bank, according to Milne.

In addition to their efforts at growing fresh produce for Hopelink, the Stella Schola Honor Society will hold a non-perishable food drive during the last week of October and the first week of November.

To donate cash or food to Stella Schola’s Honor Society projects for Hopelink, contact Brigitte Tennis at