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posted: 9/26/2011 6:00 AM

Hoover students put academic talents to work in garden project

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  • Students at the Hoover Math and Science Academy gathered with parents and community members last month to plant $4,000 worth of donations from Lowe's in Schaumburg before it closed its doors.

    Students at the Hoover Math and Science Academy gathered with parents and community members last month to plant $4,000 worth of donations from Lowe's in Schaumburg before it closed its doors.

By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald Correspondent

Students and faculty members will gather on Monday for the dedication of a new concept within Schaumburg schools: the Hoover Math and Science Academy.

The open-enrollment school aims to offer a unique learning environment for students, immersing them in hands-on experiences to explore challenging math and science concepts.

And it all starts with their innovative community garden project, started more than 18 months ago -- when the school was called Hoover Elementary School -- as part of an intergenerational project with senior residents at Friendship Village in Schaumburg.

"There have been so many math equations that are involved with the garden," says Jake Chung, principal. "Students track the number of vegetables they grow, as well as estimate their output. It's one of the hands-on pieces that makes math come alive."

Just this summer alone, students grew tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, bell peppers, banana peppers, jalapeņo peppers, lettuce, spinach radish, basil and carrots.

The majority of their crops went to the Schaumburg Township Food Pantry, where clients scoop them up nearly as soon as they come in, says Lin Greidanus, who works in the general assistance area for the township.

"We love being able to offer them," Greidanus adds. "They are healthy and nutritious, and add rich variety to a normal diet."

The Schaumburg Food Pantry serves about 450 households each month, she says, but they also accept drop-ins. Staff members place donated vegetables on a table in front, where they make them available to both drop-in and scheduled clients.

In late August, students conducted a second planting, this time using donated plants from the Lowe's in Schaumburg, before the store closed its doors.

"We received over $4,000 worth of plants and fruit trees," Chung adds, "that we were able to plant around our school campus."

They held a "community planting day" in late August and drew more than 170 students, parents and other community members. In just two hours, they had found a place for everything that was donated."

Right from the start, students designed a greenhouse as part of their concept plan, to be able to start some of their plants from seed and to extend their overall growing season.

"We figure the greenhouse will allows us to continue our growing season into early November," Chung adds.

Students also learned about hydroponics and its unique growing system that allows them to grow vegetables without soil, just like the experiments used by NASA in space.

"All of our students continue to touch our garden and greenhouse plants on our school grounds in one way or another," Chung says. "In many ways, they are food science scientists and are active practitioners when it comes to that aspect of our school."

School officials wanted to make sure the garden incorporated giving back to the community and that students understand the needs of residents living around them.

"We feel strongly as educators that we need to develop the 'whole child' as they progress up the grade levels," Chung says.

He credited the strong partnership with Friendship Village, that began right from the first design sessions. They have continued to remain involved, including helping with planting, weeding and educating the students.

In fact at the Septemberfest parade, they marched together to celebrate their partnership. Students carried a banner that seemed to capture the project: "Hoover's Friendship Garden: Growing Green Dreams."