By: Katie Sanders, FoodCorps service member
It started as a normal afternoon last Wednesday when I went out to our school garden to harvest some spinach for our upcoming cooking class. We had recently grown an abundance of the dark green plant and our students were eager to get to try it as an ingredient in our spinach and cheese quesadillas.
Unfortunately, it seems that the deer from the surrounding area were just as equally eager.
Where garden beds used to be full of growth was now nothing but stubby stems and large hoof prints in the soil. The following day our carrots took a similar hit, and by Friday we had lost our beds of beets, Swiss chard, dill, cilantro (I didn’t even know deer ate cilantro!!) and flowers. Unfortunately this week the damage has gotten worse and almost everything has been eaten to the ground.
Despite the fact that our garden looks a bit annihilated right now, we were able to have some really good discussions with our students about why the deer were in our garden. Second and fourth grade were able to connect their knowledge on the seasons to the deers’ need for water in the previous drought period. First grade was able to do the same with their water cycle knowledge. Kindergarten discussed the needs of living things and that deer too enjoy eating fresh produce. With our other classes we talked about the physiology of deer, their diets, and why the deer were pushed to come all the way up close to our school building.
Our students were obviously disappointed to see the garden eaten but they were genuinely interested in learning about deer and how animal behavior is affected by weather and stress. It was also good to be able to turn this disappointment into a lesson!