COLUMBIA — Earth Day came to Blue Ridge Elementary School on Monday in the form of dirt — lots of dirt.
For kindergartners, playing in the dirt meant lots of screaming and occasional tears but for the most part tons of fun. For the teachers, it meant constant reminders to their students about not throwing soil — soil meant for the kindergartners' community garden.
Blue Ridge went all out for its Earth Day celebration, with a day full of awareness activities and learning in hopes it could help instill in students an early appreciation for the environment.
The idea of creating a community garden at the school started with kindergarten teacher and master gardener Nancy Truesdell. Home-school communicator Jay Wiltshire took it to another level, encouraging more garden boxes and a series of events recognizing Earth Day.
"I wanted to share my desire of taking care of the land with the children," Truesdell said.
The day started with filling four raised box gardens with soil, then moved on to a trail hike followed by a talk about the importance of prairies. The main focus of the celebration was on the gardens.
"The challenge is to make the gardens self-sustaining and not just cosmetic," Wiltshire said. "For the project to continue, it needs community involvement."
The kindergartners haven't yet planted anything in their garden boxes yet. Plans call for starting with sweet potatoes and adding other vegetables later. In future years, the school plans to get other grades involved.
Principal Kristen Palmer said she believes the key is to encourage students to develop a sense of ownership over the gardens.
"We want to give them something to be proud of," she said. "This is their garden. There are no fences. This is something that they can bring there family to."
Kindergartner Wyatt Key, 6, embodied the excitement that the school administration hopes to bring out in its students.
"This is awesome," he yelled, "because plants give you stuff to eat and look at every day."
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.