Michael Harthorne
Students from St. Alphonsus spread wood chips Feb. 20 for a new garden behind the school.

St. Al's grows garden to give back

It was an unseasonably nice day for a bit of gardening Feb. 20, and nearly 50 volunteers from St. Alphonsus School took advantage of it, building a large garden the school plans to use to give back to communities near and far.

The garden comes courtesy of a Washington State Department of Ecology grant to St. Alphonsus, located at 5816 15th Ave. N.W.

The garden will benefit the students of St. Alphonsus, but Stephanie Schmutz, fourth-grade teacher and organizer of the project, said the benefit will reach beyond the school.

"We are creating a living lab, not only working with the earth but the different sciences and social studies," she said.

Students are researching plants to find out what will grow best in the new garden, but they will also give a portion of the proceeds from the garden to the Ballard Food Bank. Another portion will be sent to a school in Guatemala to build a library.

The garden gives the children a purpose and responsibility, Schmutz said. She said it is important for students to help less fortunate students in other parts of the world.

The volunteer turnout surprised Schmutz, who put a notice for help in the school bulletin.

"I'm just shocked," she said. "I thought there would be nine people."

St. Alphonsus student Julio Ramirez said a lot of middle-schoolers were participating to get service hours, but many people just want to help.

The garden project comes on the heels of St. Alphonsus' composting program, which has allowed it to reduce the size of its dumpster, saving the school $200 every month, Schmutz said.

Student Simon Serwold, along with Ramirez, is part of the school's Green Team, which monitors the composting program. He said the program is important.

"When you compost, you're saving natural fuels," he said.

Perhaps most importantly during a sunny Saturday in February, the students, who were working hard hauling concrete blocks and spreading compost, said they were having fun.

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