School Gardens Offer Hands-in-the-Dirt Education


  • Liz Core & Lynne Zehr

This fall, expectant Goshen elementary students will harvest potatoes they planted from seed early last spring. Come Thanksgiving, they’ll eat dishes made with vegetables they grew themselves. Other students will, for the first time in their lives, learn how to use rakes, shovels, and pitchforks. Others will help plant a flower garden, or learn to how to plant bulbs in fresh soil.

The students’ new gardening knowledge is thanks to two very passionate teachers in the Goshen School System: Andrew Kauffman (Goshen College ‘04), a teacher at Chandler Elementary School, and Shelley Kauffman (Goshen College ‘04), a teacher at Waterford Elementary School. Both Andrew and Shelley were instrumental in bringing gardening education to their schools (they also happen to be related – Shelley is married to Andrew’s twin brother). Andrew and Shelley share deep interest in teaching children about the importance of caring for the environment, stemming from a general love of the outdoors.

“I’ve always loved being outside,” said Andrew. “My parents had a big garden when we were growing up. Now, I want my students to grow up with that – I want them to be aware of the amazing world around them.”

So Andrew made it happen. Last school year, Andrew asked the Goshen Schools central office for permission to transform an unused patch of bare ground on the Chandler Elementary playground into a flower garden.

“I noticed that the playground didn’t have much space for kids to experience grass, flowers, and plants,” said Andrew.

School leaders also recognized the need, so Andrew’s proposal was soon accepted. Three weeks after Andrew made the initial request, the garden was created. Planning and implementing the garden was made easier with overwhelming support from the PTO and volunteers. On the day the garden was put in, kindergartners planted succulents, parents and teachers helped haul in soil and lay mulch, grade schoolers helped water, even councilman Jeremy Stutsman showed up to move in 200 pound rocks.

... (read the full Good of Goshen article here)