North Ridgeville learning garden

Joshua Reffert, 12, left, Alex Foldi, 12, and Trey Zaremba, 9, plant Black-eyed Susans in the garden.


New learning garden provides students with hands-on experience

Students, teachers and school district officials spent a recent chilly morning celebrating the donation of a new Captain Planet Foundation Learning Garden in front of Ranger High-Tech Academy. Students planted and harvested vegetables. Associates from Heinen’s and Dole Packaged Foods also participated in the Project Learning Garden program. Captain Planet himself flew in for the event.

Third-grade students have spent the last two months growing lettuce and herbs from seeds in their classroom. They’ve been able to watch the life cycle of plants, said third-grade teacher Carly Samosan. Students will continue to plant tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, carrots and blackberries. Third-grader Emily Moore, 9, was excited to finally move some of the plants outside.

“It’s fun to see it all come together with teamwork,” Emily said. “I’m looking forward to planting everything so maybe at the end of the year we can have a full salad with all the vegetables.”

The garden provides a wide range of learning from science to language arts. Students will learn about food origins, engage in science field investigation and gain an understanding of real-life environments. Students currently are working on plans to keep critters away.

“They realized they need to stop animals from getting to the plants,” Samosan said. “They’re learning about adaptation. Some of them are creating blueprints for a possible fence and are coming up with other ideas. They’re very attached to the plants they’ve grown and don’t want anything to happen to them.”

The whole school came together for the project. Fifth- and sixth-grade students designed the garden and put together the five plant beds. The school’s custodian constructed a sixth raised bed. Seventh- and eighth-grade students cleaned up the area and laid the mulch. All students will use the garden next school year, said Principal Melissa Durkin. The end goal is to plant enough fruits and vegetables to use in school lunches, she said.

This was all made possible by a $3,000 grant from the Captain Planet Foundation, Dole Packaged Foods and Heinen’s Grocery Store. The grant provided the plant beds, equipment, a cooking cart, a Vitamix blender for students to make smoothies with and teacher training so students can learn to use the garden, said Marty Ordman, communications director with Dole Packaged Foods. The school applied for the grant after hearing about it in October.

The Captain Planet Foundation and Dole have been partnering with supermarkets across the nation and contacted Heinen’s in September. Since the Avon Heinen’s location is close to North Ridgeville, Dole officials felt Heinen’s, which already has a relationship with the community, would be a good partner, Ordman said.

This is the first garden the nationwide program has provided to a Northeast Ohio school. The Dole and Captain Planet partnership has donated more than 150 learning gardens across the country.

Mayor David Gillock and Superintendent Roxann Ramsey-Caserio attended the event on May 8 to commend the school for embracing community learning.

“I want to watch it through the years as it grows,” Gillock said. “I’m excited to see how it looks next year.”

After the presentation, students harvested lettuce and prepared a small salad with dressing for attendees to sample. Staff members and students and their families will tend to the garden over summer vacation.

Contact this reporter at or 440-871-5797.

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