Success in full bloom


An idea is like a garden. With a little love and nurturing, it can bloom into something fruitful and grand. For four Roosevelt girls, an idea sprouted up at the end of last school year sometime between science class and recess.  Sixth graders Sadie Widmer, Aisha Kazembe, Isabelle Gray and Aleysia Kolyvanova, along with the guidance of teacher Vicki Saunders and Roosevelt principal Celeste Shoppa, were able to cultivate their plans for planting a school garden.

According to Kazembe, inspiration was rooted in science class, when students were studying the plant unit.

“We found a weed on the playground and wanted to see if it would grow if we transplanted it,” Widmer said.  After a successful transplant, the girls decided to apply their discovery to their school by creating a garden outside Roosevelt, against the ravine.

Kazembe and Widmer began to landscape the Roosevelt garden last summer, planting tomatoes, snowpeas, peppers and onions. The two girls hoed, watered and weeded. In addition to the heavy manual labor, they also faced a challenge with nature. According to Gray, the hardest part of maintaining the garden was the excessive weeding that took place.

“In our garden, we don’t use chemicals . . . So, the hardest part was taking care of all the weeds and poison ivy,” Gray said.

Although the foursome frequently faced obstacles, Saunders was their main source of support and encouragement in the early planning stages. In fact, it was her son Ben who provided most of the plant starters from his organic farm in Des Moines.

In addition to maintaining an organic garden, the girls also apply the mindset of an eco-friendly lifestyle  to the rest of their lives. The girls do so by walking and biking to school in the spring and recycling.

And in the end, the hard work in the garden paid off. After just one season, the garden bloomed with not only vegetables, but with popularity. According to Kolyvanova, the other fifth and sixth graders were eager to volunteer in the garden. In fact, the girls made a poster so that their classmates could sign up for gardening tasks.

In addition to alluring in plenty of students, the garden provided vegetables and herbs, which the girls used to make treats for their grateful classmates.

“We made salsa [for the class] and pizza dough with basil on top of it,” Gray said. “[My classmates] said to bring it in again.”


Sadie Widmer, 12

Favorite Color: blue

Favorite class: science

Favorite Breakfast food: oatmeal pancakes

Favorite TV Show: Once Upon a Time

Favorite sport: Volleyball

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why? Reunion Island, Madagascar because my cousins live there and I’d like to visit them.

Favorite vegetable in the Roosevelt garden: snowpeas


Aisha Kazembe, 12

Favorite Color: Lime green

Favorite Movie: The Master of Disguise

Favorite class: Art

Favorite TV Show: Shake it Up

Favorite breakfast food: Chocolate chip pancakes

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why? Hawaii because it seems warm and fun.

Favorite vegetable in the Roosevelt garden: Tomatoes


Isabelle Gray, 12

Favorite Color: Pink

Favorite music: pop music

Favorite class: science

Favorite time of day: Nighttime

Favorite breakfast food: Doughnuts

Favorite TV Show: Disney Channel

Favorite sport: Dance

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why? Hawaii, because it’s warm there and people say it’s a nice place to travel.

Favorite vegetable in the Roosevelt garden: Tomatoes


Aleysia Kolyvanova, 11

Favorite color: pink

Favorite movie: Titanic

Favorite breakfast food: scrambeled eggs

Favorite time of day: Afternoon

Favorite TV show: Wipeout

Favorite sport: Gymnastics

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why? Russia, because my family is from Russia.

Favorite vegetable in the Roosevelt garden: Tomatoes