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School's Rooftop Garden a Place to Learn How Things Grow

A plant sale continues through Thursday (10/1) at Hickory Hills School.  The native plants were grown on top of the school by students and volunteers.  KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more.

A raised bed garden and greenhouse on top of Hickory Hills School on E. Division is run by volunteers and is used as a learning ground for students.  Kay Johnson heads up the project.  The 82-year-old enjoys sharing his love of gardening with the kids.  This year one of the raised beds contains popcorn, and Johnson said many kids are surprised to learn that’s where the snack comes from.

"They looked at it.  One of the little boys right in front said, 'how do you get it in the bag?'  He had never seen it on a cob before, and he didn't know how it came off of there.  So, I took my thumb and peeled off four or five kernels, you know, and gave it to him.  Well, that was his prize for the day, I guess," he said.

Johnson’s first assignment five years ago was to grow native plants from seed to use in the school’s landscaping. 

Now, students learn how to plant and harvest vegetables in the garden’s six raised beds.

One of Johnson’s favorite times of year is when students come up to harvest sweet potatoes.

"They get down on their knees.  They put their elbows on the side of the bed like this, then I'll say, 'ready, set, go,' well, in different speeds, you know to throw them off, and when I say go, oh, the dirt's just a flying like this," he said.

Food grown in the garden is used in the cafeteria. 

Volunteers get something out of the experience, too.  Shae Johnson is a retired teacher and Master Gardener who's been volunteering for about a year.

"I volunteer so that I learn more about plants and native plants, in particular," she said.

Proceeds from a native plant sale going on now at Hickory Hills School will go back into the rooftop garden and greenhouse.

Each plant is $4, and the sale is open during school hours.