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Fourth graders’ garden to help senior citizens

Nichole Manna

The Wilson Post

Elzie Patton Elementary School fourth graders played in the dirt Wednesday, but it was for a good cause.

The students have been growing bean sprouts at school to plant in the garden at the Mt. Juliet Community Center at Charlie Daniels Park as part of the school’s Focus on the Community project.

The students recently planted their bean sprouts alongside Master Gardener and City of Mt. Juliet Parks Clerk Jan Littrell’s corn seed.

When Littrell visited Elzie Patton earlier in May to help the kids begin their beans, she told them about the Native American tale of the Three Sisters, which represent beans, corn and squash. These plants have a mutually beneficial relationship when planted close together. 

“The beans grow up the corn stalks and that gives the beans somewhere to go. The beans anchor the corn when storms come. They’re so heavy they’ll blow over. Then when you plant the squash it spreads out and keeps the ground wet. So that’s the Three Sisters,” Littrell explained.

When the children brought their bean sprouts to the garden, Littrell and several other Wilson County Master Gardeners assisted the children in transplanting the crops in order to complete the Three Sisters. 

Before the fourth graders started planting, Cat Webster of the Oneida Tribe in Wisconsin retold the story of the Three Sisters. She also brought corn dolls and squash rattles to show what the tribes would make with leftover food.

“The corn dolls are made with the corn stalk,” she said, later adding, “The rattles are made with squash.”

Afterwards, she sang a traditional Native American song to the children. The song is sung to bring people from all over the tribe to sing and dance together. The tribe sings songs to keep the seasons going and to speak to the creator and crops.  

“The song is saying, ‘come cousins, sing with us,’” Webster explained. 

The Community Center started the garden in spring 2011. Vegetables from the garden are donated to the Senior Citizens Awareness Network (SCAN). The program was developed by the Wilson County Sherriff’s Department, which addresses the needs of senior citizen’s all across Wilson County. About 99 percent of the vegetables are given to SCAN, and some are used at the center.

Before they began planting, Debbie Paré, director SCAN, thanked the students for their contributions to the organization.

“When people are generous and kind like you, it makes all the difference. It does change lives. Don’t ever think something this small doesn’t,” she said.

As a thank you, the Sherriff’s Department gave all the kids a gift bag with a water bottle, ruler, two pencils and a Frisbee. 

Then the kids were given a spoon to dig with and directions on how to plant their beans in the ground.

“Don’t leave gaps in the soil. And you don’t want to put dirt any higher on the plant than it already is,” explained Master Gardener Roy Atkinson.

During Littell’s earlier visit to Elzie Patton, she gave the students paint sticks to decorate with their names so they know which bean sprout is theirs. 

“Most kids live around the park and can come watch their vegetables grow,” Littrell said.

This is the first year this project has been done with a school.

“We’ll see how it goes and maybe expand,” said MJCC Resource Development Coordinator CJ Kiekens.

Wilson Post Staff Writer Nichole Manna may be contacted at 


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