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Students Learn Artful Gardening at Neuwoehner

Students Learn Artful Gardening at NeuwoehnerNovember 30, 2021 - Neuwoehner High School art teacher Deborah Rudolf wants all her students to become creative thinkers and makers of art. If gardening helps them get there, that’s a bonus. “Even if they don’t like art, I want them to know that art can be calming, art can be expressive,” said Rudolf. 

After volunteering during the summer at the Mathews Dickey Boys and Girls Club, Rudolf was introduced to the program Green St. Louis Machine: an educational initiative that engages students in STEM practices, promotes nutrition, and develops students’ skills in urban agriculture. Rudolf became hooked on the program right away and decided to implement what she learned into her teaching at Neuwoehner at the beginning of the school year. 

As part of the curriculum, students plant and grow fruits and vegetables in a tower garden, which is a vertical gardening system that is kept indoors and grows plants year-round. Every day, students check the soil pH levels, refill the water tank, pull off dried leaves, and harvest leafy greens. Students have grown basil, cilantro, dill, mint, and swiss chard and have made several salads, pizzas, and pasta dishes with the garnishes.

“It's important for students to learn how to garden and harvest their own food because they too become part of the growing process,” said Rudolf. “When they see the success of the seeds germinating and growing into food that is healthy, tasty, and fun to cook, creativity grows.”

Rudolf says one of her favorite parts about the program is being able to show the importance of art and science. Along with harvesting their own food, students are learning about botanical gardens, sculpture parks, and famous pieces of art that showcase natural environments. 

“Art is everywhere, from the geometric patterns that make up a single leaf to the value and beauty of preserving the world’s ecosystem,” said Rudolf. “Tower gardening is a process we can engage in to create healthier habits for ourselves as well as healthy ways to sustain nature and conserve resources.”

One of the long-term projects in the class is for students to create a collection of recipes, artwork, and photos that are inspired by the tower garden. If you would like to visit the art room to see the tower garden, email Rudolf at dkrudolf@ssdmo.org.