MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Spring is in full swing, and the green vegetables at Austin Road Elementary School’s garden are ready for picking.

If you peek around the side of the school building you will see a lush green garden equipped with an irrigation system, a variety of planters, a small green house section, and a variety of tools and materials to create an elaborate garden system. The garden not only provides healthy edible food, but it offers hands-on learning experiences that the students at Austin Road can apply in their own lives with family and friends.

The essence of an outdoor classroom; learning about how plants grow, the types of plants that thrive in our region, how to properly care for them and how to correctly pick each plant. Much of the operation is spearheaded by Elizabeth Dore’s students, but the entire school community gets their hands dirty, from preparing to planting to picking.

Ms. Dore and her students helped to organize our annual Harvest Week event that included picking, washing, preparing, serving and eating an delicious organic salad. They were instrumental in facilitating the entire process from planting the seeds to serving the homegrown salad for the entire school building to enjoy. Each class at Austin Road had the opportunity to participate in the harvesting process with a garden buddy from Dore’s class. The garden buddy highlighted some of the most important steps in the process, including how to correctly pick the vegetable without harming the plant. Vegetables to choose from included kale, radishes, swiss chard, spinach, red mustard, and red leaf lettuce. Oh, and we cannot forget the edible flowers for garnish! The salad was topped off with a delicious homemade salad dressing courtesy of Ms. Dore’s class. Everyone had the chance to relax on our school yard patio, enjoying salad while soaking up the sun. It was a great way to bring all of the students together at the end of the school year!