TAMPA – Like all Hillsborough County elementary schools, Muller Elementary Magnet School offers several choices at lunch and one of them is a healthy choice — salad.
Sounds like a good idea, but fifth-grader Tkai Conley doesn’t like it at all.
“I hate their salad,” Tkai said with a smile. “Ours are better.”
Tkai is one of six Muller students who participate in the Green Gardens elective. The children maintain a vegetable garden and take care of it every school day. They work the soil, plant the seeds, and keep it going until it’s time for a real salad. They also help out in the school’s Global Garden, which features designated areas featuring artwork and vegetables indicative of those countries.
Fifth-grader Jeremiah Bellamy said he never thought he could be involved in gardening but, while wearing work gloves and digging the soil around a cucumber plant, said he’s enjoyed every minute of it. His grandfather sold homegrown vegetables, which Jeremiah said were much better than anything the family could buy at a store.
Even though the recent cold and rain snap hindered the growth of their plants a little, Jeremiah said that it just comes with working in a garden.
“It’s been fun,” Jeremiah said. “I never thought I would want to work in a garden, but when I heard it was an elective I wanted to give something new a try and I’m glad I did.”
This is the second year for fifth-grader Ashley Pineda, who agreed that the Muller students produce better vegetables than the grocery store.
“Ours just taste better,” Ashley said. “When you buy them at a store they aren’t as fresh as ours. I think our tomatoes are the best.”
The children are learning every facet of gardening. They pull the weeds, water the plants and bushes and do what else is needed to care for them daily, even though the class meets for only 45 minutes on Thursdays.
Each took the class for a different reason.
Tkai is interested in science and was excited when the students were able to start taking soil samples to the Muller computer lab to study the dirt to determine which soil would be the best for their garden.
“It’s fun to learn about plants and plant life,” Tkai said. “With our garden and the Global Garden, I am learning a lot.”
The Muller kids have already eaten some of their vegetables in salads they made just before the holidays, and now Jeremiah said that they would like a fruit garden. He said that if they could start a fruit garden they could make fruit and vegetable salads for the Muller teachers at the end of the school year.
Muller Elementary is at 13615 North 22nd St. in Tampa, but draws students from all over Hillsborough. Magnet schools provide students and parents the option of choosing a school that matches a students interests. Muller, a National Excellence in Education school, has a partnership with the Patel Conservatory and integrates the arts and environmental studies into the school’s curriculum.