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Garden At School For Troubled Youth Provides Calming Influence

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Students at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines learn how to grow fruits and vegetables, and sell them at the school's farm stand. (Credit: Bernie Tafoya)

Students at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines learn how to grow fruits and vegetables, and sell them at the school’s farm stand. (Credit: Bernie Tafoya)

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DES PLAINES, Ill. (CBS) – Some young people at a school for troubled youth in Des Plaines have been finding that the way to calm the soul might be through gardening.

For the past five years, spring and summer for students at Jen School on the campus of Maryville Academy has been garden time – a chance to learn how to grow fruits and vegetables, harvest them, and eat them.

A 21-year old student said he likes watering the plants, and proudly said he’s planted things like lettuce and dill.

A 14-year old said he was first exposed to asparagus through the school’s garden, which has grown from six large garden boxes of 10′ x 10′ and larger, to 28 garden boxes. There are also some fruit trees that have been planted.

Fridays, though, are an exciting time for students. It’s the day they open their farm stand to sell what they’ve grown. School chief academic officer Anne Craig said most of the produce is bought by staffers, although some members of the public do wander in to buy the string beans, blueberries, zucchini, and more.

Maryville cook Toni Tomasello said the students love it when she uses their homegrown veggies in her recipes.

“For us it’s exciting and it saves money. We don’t have to order as much. We get it from our garden,” she said.

Craig called the garden a healing place.

“It’s amazing to see kids who’ve never experienced gardening to realize vegetables come from the ground,” she said.

Now-retired teacher Alyson Beaucler started the garden five years ago as a classroom project. Now, it’s expanded as part of the entire school’s program.

“This is a wonderful thing for them to do. It’s very calming,” she said.

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