Just a few weeks ago, the small gardens beneath the classroom windows blossomed with bright pink cosmos and what seemed like a ton of food: potatoes, lettuce, bell peppers and okra.
There had been a lot of lessons in that dirt, said fourth-grade teacher and avid gardener David Caolo.
This is where his students at Bishop Larkin Catholic School learned a little about horticulture, including the importance of weeding, proper plant spacing and giving a newly transplanted seedling a gentle shower. They learned where seeds come from and something about far-away places like Nigeria when they pulled apart the okra pod the sisters brought back from there.
They learned that potatoes are roots, and onions are too. Some of the soil was brought inside in recycled food jars so they could see root systems develop. With the help of culinary aficionado and assistant principal Sylvia Peters, they learned how to prepare the food from their first harvest for eating.
Every school day at 2:15 p.m. they headed outdoors to tend their gardens and delight in the progress.
The project cultivated teamwork among the students, Caolo said.
But recent winter frosts were brutal, leaving small swaths of brown, scrawny patches and a hoard of unripened tomatoes in their wake.
The students who tended the garden were disappointed. But there's a lesson in that, too, said their teacher. So he told them to harvest the green tomatoes anyway and leave them to ripen on their desks so they could eat them later on.
"They were pretty amazed that you could do that," Caolo said.
Then, last week, when the cold subsided, students started planting again: tomatoes, white impatiens and bright red gerber daisies.
They dug new holes and gently watered the new seedlings, and learned, perhaps, that life indeed springs eternal.