Jim Minerich, of Breezy Point, may have retired from teaching five years ago, but he continues his work in education with the Environmental Learning Center (ELC) at Eagle View Elementary School in Breezy Point.
Formerly a fourth-grade teacher, Minerich coordinates the activities in the garden, involving students in the planting, weeding, harvesting and eating of vegetables grown there.
“It’s all hands-on in the dirt. I want them to see gardening and do gardening,” Minerich said.
He helped develop the ELC when Eagle View was first being built. He saw the blueprints and knew about the area behind the school where the garden is now located. With help in the form of a grant from the Pelican Lake Conservation Club, the ELC was born.
The area behind Eagle View now has 11 raised beds and three tiered beds. This year students, with help from Minerich, planted corn in the summer and harvested it, shucked it and ate it at school this fall. So much corn was grown that a fair amount was given to the Sibley Terrace apartments in Pequot Lakes.
Minerich spent a lunch period serving the corn, and said only five students turned down corn that day. He said of all the vegetables grown in the garden, corn was the most popular so far.
Growing the corn was a joint effort between the ELC, which is funded by the school district, and the PTA. The PTA provided funds as part of a health and wellness program.
For several years now, Minerich has coordinated the planting of different sorts of vegetables so students can see how they grow and the results of their work.
In 2012 green beans were grown.
“We picked, snapped and blanched 200 pounds,” Minerich said.
Another year carrots were grown. Students were able to go to the garden, pull up a carrot, wash it right there and eat it fresh from the ground.
“Kids didn’t know carrots had tops,” Minerich said, adding that many thought carrots simply came from a bag.
Minerich tries to get kids in the garden as often as possible.
“They like being outside and they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty,” Minerich said of kids. “I could be out there all day every day.”
While Minerich coordinates work with students in the garden during the school year, he also coordinates visits with kids in the summer.
Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts both make trips to the ELC, and Minerich teaches a summer science camp that spends a fair amount of time in the garden.
Minerich’s interest in gardening started at a young age. His parents always had a big garden, and he had to work in it. Back then, he said, it wasn’t so much a choice.
Minerich gets lots of help from students, but also receives a lot of help from his wife, Sara.
“Between her and I we get things done,” he said.
His next project is to plant 500 tulip bulbs in the garden, which students will get to see bloom next spring.
Kate Perkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at twitter.com/KateAtEcho.