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Innovative Educator: Boise teacher nurtures green thumb in students

Boise High School students are getting their hands dirty under the leadership Boise High science teacher Ali Ward.

BOISE, Idaho — Editor's note: This content is sponsored by CapEd Credit Union.

On the corner of 12th and Fort Streets in Boise sits a community garden. Growing in it are strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, flowers - and teenagers.

"Their personalities, their humor, their vigor, the questions they ask - it never gets old," said Boise High School science teacher Ali Ward.

Ward coordinates the community garden, called the Downtown Teaching Farm. The students study the ecosystem and do soil testing, composting and seeding, as well as planting, watering and weeding.

"You know, really just that idea of seeing a project move through the cycles of the season and feeling connected and empowered," Ward said.

They dig into the science, including the importance of pollinator plants.

"Really thinking about not only the honey bees that we have there, but the native bees that we can create habitat for," Ward said.

They also harvest and clean the flower seeds for the Snake River Seed Cooperative. The seeds get packaged and sold retail. Because of that, they don't have to do fundraisers.

"We've been able to use the seed money as seed money," Ward said laughing.

The picked produce goes to neighborhood volunteers who tend the garden and the students.

"In the last couple months I've been sending food home in backpacks as much as possible as we harvested the end of the year tomatoes, or the onions, or the potatoes," Ward said. "I think it's as much about connecting the students to their neighborhood and the idea of making positive change as it is about growing certain fruits and vegetables."

Ward says student interns also tend the garden in the summer and earn community service credits.

If you would like to nominate an Innovative Educator who is going above and beyond, send us an email to innovativeeducator@ktvb.com.
Educators, for information on submitting an application for a classroom grant through the Idaho CapEd Foundation, visit www.capedfoundation.org.

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