Quality of life grows in Federal Way's gardens | Andy Hobbs

Gardens will bring out the best in Federal Way. I guarantee it.

Under the leadership of Mike Stanley, the Federal Way Community Garden Foundation is sprouting some serious wings. In the past few years, the foundation’s reach has grown from one community garden at the Federal Way Senior Center to five gardens — and counting — at local schools.

Last fall, the foundation broke ground on a community garden at Truman High School. Taking root this spring are gardens at Camelot, Enterprise, Green Gables and Nautilus elementary schools.

Darcy Borg, who teaches fifth grade at Camelot Elementary, said the garden will add another dimension to every facet of the school’s curriculum. The garden immerses students of all ages in a collaborative hands-on setting that deepens their understanding and appreciation of nature, science, nutrition, math and more.

“It brings out a whole new aspect of learning that may not have been cultivated in the classroom,” said Borg, whose school garden will host a groundbreaking ceremony April 2. “For students who may not find success in the classroom, they may find a whole new niche in the garden.”

Indeed, students often learn best in a hands-on environment. The gardens offer another outlet for applying what is learned in the classroom. Aside from encouraging exercise, working in a garden also teaches patience as students nurture their crops from seed to harvest.

Dozens of schools across Western Washington already sport gardens. The concept has been embraced in other states including California, where the California School Garden Network wants to establish gardens at every school. Several online reports suggest that students involved in gardening score higher on achievement tests and develop positive attitudes toward healthy foods.

Gardening is a life skill with practical applications in Federal Way. For example, the Federal Way Senior Center Community Garden grows food for people in need, and brings volunteers together to socialize while working toward making the community a better place. This is a critical component to raising quality of life, which is a goal that every Federal Way resident shares, regardless of whether they realize it.

Gardening goes beyond fruits and vegetables to include landscaping like green grass and blooming native Northwest flowers. The more “green thumbs” that grow in Federal Way, the more aesthetically pleasing the city’s neighborhoods will become — yet another subtle aspect in raising quality of life. Anyone who has ever broken a sweat while mowing, planting and weeding their yards will know how that pride feels when the day’s work is done. Community gardens and school gardens help foster that feeling of pride in those who devote their time and energy toward the gardens. Nurturing that feeling is one key to improving quality of life.

There is a point to all this gushing over gardens, for they make life richer in Federal Way. Community gardens are prime examples of “third places,” a term to describe where local people meet regularly for social camaraderie outside of home (“first place”) and work (“second place”). The gardens feed people, teach people and bring people together. As the springtime cures the city’s wilting winter souls, let these gardens — and the ideas behind them — bloom in the sun.

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