Hydroponic Garden Flourishes in Walnut Street School Lobby

The new garden in the lobby of the Walnut Street School.

The new garden in the lobby of the Walnut Street School.

Already growing downtown like a six-story sunflower in the middle of a concrete field of commerce was the Walnut Street School. And now, growing inside of it is a small patch of Eden that holds all sorts of promise as a living laboratory for students and their families.

Principal Rob Burnett came to WSS from Capitol View Elementary, one of many district schools where traditional outdoor gardens have been planted on the grounds. He wanted to do something similar downtown because gardens make great teaching tools and metaphors for child growth and development, but where? The school is rooted in cement. Burnett started researching vertical gardens. They’re a thing these days. Then he got wind of the hydroponic garden at the nearby Des Moines Social Club and investigated. No dirt required. Space was available in the lobby and before school adjourned for the summer a makeshift herbal vineyard had been installed and planted, courtesy of Fauxboo Creations. What started off looking like a bamboo grid is now overflowing with greenery. The roots of chives and basil and tarragon literally bathe in water that’s teeming with nutrients. Plus, no weeds! And the growing season there on the ground floor is year round. Not to mention the soothing babble of the indoor aqueduct.

“This project was not expensive,” said Burnett. “And the money was raised by our PTO. When school starts in August we will encourage our parents to help themselves to some greens for their table while they’re waiting to pick up their students.”

So besides food for thought Walnut Street salad will be coming home next year. And that’s not all. Burnett has other ideas in the works.

“We will change up what we’re planting. We might even be able to plant some flowers to grow as gifts for teachers and parents. And the garden in general will lend itself to our IB units of inquiry in lots of ways.”

Principles of urban agriculture, economics, horticulture, conservation, etc. – yes, this new downtown greenhouse has indeed taken root and is growing right along with a school that’s been expanding since district administrative offices moved out of the top two floors of the building last year. Burnett says that Walnut Street had about 280 students in 2015-16 and expects between 320/330 next year as it moves toward an eventual capacity of about 400.

Now would be a great time to get in on that ground floor and stake a claim at an International Baccalaureate school that’s growing good crops of kids, among other sorts of produce.

For more information about Walnut Street School in general or to get involved with the hydroponic garden in particular contact office manager Tina Stifel at 242-8438.

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