Lincoln Learning Garden
We created the Lincoln Learning Garden in June 2018 because what we feed our children, and what we teach them about food in school shapes how they learn, how they grow, and how long they will live. And children today—in schools all across the nation—are in need. It’s no different in Wagoner, as the city has 33% of the population living in poverty, with many children facing food insecurity, and less than 2% of Wagoner’s children eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, over 90% of the families that we serve come from households with less than $10,000 total combined annual income.
School garden programs can help children grow up to be healthier, assist with better nutrition, and encourage healthier eating habits. School garden programs not only promote healthy lifestyles in children, but have also been shown to improve children’s behavior and performance at school and improve their attitudes about and appreciation for the environment. Gardens serve as great outdoor classrooms for any number of subjects, including reading, science and ecology, math, creative writing, and art.
In conjunction with various community partners including the Wagoner Health Department, Cooperative Extension, Wagoner 4-H Club, Southwood Landscape and Garden Center, the Garden Center, the Wagoner Rose Club, and several private citizens (including Ms. Nancy Russell Waggoner, Mr. Gary Rowe, and Teresa & Rick Baldridge), we began the Lincoln Learning Garden. The Lincoln Learning was created to improve the health and well-being of students, families, and the larger community. The garden also provides opportunities for hands-on learning, inquiry, observation, and experimentation across the curriculum; motivates kids to eat and love fruits and vegetables; and promotes physical activity and quality outdoor experiences.
The Lincoln Learning Garden is focusing on education, learning, and demonstrations. Curriculum implemented assist the students to learn and grow. Vegetables and herbs grown in the garden are incorporated into cooking classes, as part of the Teen Cuisine Program. A group of volunteers, made-up of community residents, provide instruction and help the students explore, learn, and maintain the garden. The Lincoln Learning Garden is open to the community when the Lincoln Enrichment Center is open.
To offset the loss of milkweeds and nectar sources, we wanted to create a monarch butterfly habitat by adding milkweeds and nectar sources to the Lincoln Learning Garden. In doing so, we helped to assure the preservation of the species and the continuation of the spectacular monarch migration phenomenon. With the goal of adding more habitat for monarch butterflies, in Spring 2020, we applied for and received free milkweed from the University of Kansas, as part of the Natural Resources Defense Council Grant. The Lincoln Learning Garden was later designated a Monarch Way Station by Monarch Watch.
We continue to add native milkweed and nectar sources to the Lincoln Learning Garden and take certain steps to maintaining the natural habitat. We also added an additional six beds to the garden and offered area families the opportunity to have a garden bed to grow their own vegetables. Our 2022 garden has over 40 flowering plants, 23 vegetable plants, and 15 types of herbs.