July 2, 2013

Student grows ‘unreal’ 39-pound cabbage

By Mimi Ensley
Dalton Public Schools

— It’s the weight of a 4- or 5-year-old child, twice that of a car tire and equal to a 5-gallon bottle of water. Brookwood Elementary School student Daniel Quintero’s 39-pound cabbage was almost unbelievable.

“It was unreal,” said Anna Verhoeff, a parent volunteer who works with Brookwood’s garden.

Throughout the spring, the garden has hosted a cabbage for each third-grade student at the school as a part of the Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program. Bonnie Plants distributes free cabbage plants to third-graders across the nation. Each state chooses a winning cabbage and the student who grew the vegetable receives a $1,000 scholarship.

Daniel’s cabbage will be entered in the state competition. His secret to cabbage success? Lots of water and care.

“I was surprised,” Daniel, 9, said when he discovered how big his cabbage had gotten. “(Surprised) because my cabbage grew the biggest.”

Brookwood has participated in the cabbage program before, but this year officials chose to grow the cabbage plants at the school rather than sending them home with the students.

“A lot more of the kids got to participate in the program this year because of the (school) garden,” Verhoeff said. “During recess, a lot of the kids liked to work in the garden so they would come and weed and even sing to the plants.”

In total, the garden housed about 100 cabbage plants, averaging 30 pounds each. That’s 3,000 pounds of cabbage (weighing more than three grand pianos). Most of the cabbage was donated to several food banks throughout the community, but Daniel got to take his home to eat.

The second and third place plants weighed in at 36.6 pounds and 35.5 pounds respectively.

Brookwood teacher Sarah Jaume took pictures of the plants’ progress and encouraged students to blog about their cabbage during time in the school computer lab. In this way, the garden is an educational tool that reaches into nearly every aspect of student learning. Students can write about the garden, learn about the science and agriculture or measure their plants during math class.

“There are a lot of things that you can do outside that you can link to the curriculum,” Verhoeff said.

Carmen Flammini, another parent volunteer working with the garden, agreed. She noted many students live in small apartments without much green space. The garden, she said, gives them the opportunity to go outside and learn.

“And it’s also a life experience that’s important for them,” she said. “It’s so good to see the kids improve in their knowledge from semester to semester. It’s going to help the students learn in an easier way and in a way they will never forget.”