SYRACUSE -- Behind Syracuse Elementary School sits a quiet, quarter-acre plot full of various plants, benches for sitting next to shady trees, garden boxes overflowing with strawberries and trails leading through the gardens.
The school garden began as a small hands-on learning opportunity for the students, but has since grown to fill nearly every inch of space, with most of the work being done by students.
Over the years, students have pulled weeds, planted bushes and plants, added mulch and watched their planted seeds grow.
New this year to the garden activities is a family garden club. During one of the club's recent meetings, the group of families gathered to learn about planting vegetables, and fourth-grader Isaac Barney learned for the first time how to plant potatoes.
"I like to come, because there is still stuff I haven't learned, and I want to become a good gardener and help take care of nature," Isaac said.
Working alongside him was his second-grader sister and their mom, who hopes her kids will reap rewards from attending the family garden club.
"I want them to have a love of gardening that will stay with them the rest of their lives," said Colette Barney, who confessed she doesn't have the greenest of thumbs. "I plant things, and they don't grow, so I also came hoping to learn the proper way to plant, water and when to harvest my plants."
During the school year, classes help weed and tend their own section of the garden. Fourth-graders study Utah history, so their portion of the garden contains native plants. Second-graders learn about the interactions between plants and animals, so they come out to the garden and experience their lessons firsthand as they discover the plants growing in the fish pond.
"It's a lot of work, but it is worth it for the kids, so they can experience this," said third-grade teacher Joan Haven, who is in charge of the garden. "I feel like I'm training the children as the future stewards of our environment, and they are the ones who will have to take care of it."
Sixth-grader Gabriella Herrera has enjoyed coming to the club, but she admits it isn't always easy.
"I like to learn new things and am hoping to learn just how to help the plants grow," she said. "Sometimes it's hard work, like pulling some of the weeds, but I know I am helping a plant start growing by keeping the weeds away."
What the kids gain from the experience is invaluable, Haven said.
"They learn how to work. Some like to work and some don't, but that's OK, because they are getting the experience of what it is to have a garden."
Funding for the school garden comes from grants, donations and plant sales, but Haven said they are always in need of more.
"Our biggest concern continues to be funding in order to maintain the garden," she said. "Money is needed for tools, seeds, plants, signs, soil, mulch and curriculum materials."