TURLOCK — It was the day before Halloween, but students at Julien Elementary School had their minds — and hands — on something more nutritious than candy.
The school's 11th annual garden celebration was filed with lessons, art projects and tasting.
"Chard, that's the best," said second-grader Carlos Rivera, 7.
Teacher Janet Wheeler backed his claim. Carlos' mom, whose older sons have gone through Wheeler's class, told the teacher that her children now ask for the vegetables they grow at school. For Carlos, that also includes radishes.
Wheeler said the garden, which moved five years ago to a bigger location, provides any number of learning opportunities.
"We do a lot of writing out here, and science," she said. "We study life cycles and insects."
"And we do a lot of planting," Carlos added.
They also work with worms they breed in worm bins, which second-grader Maya Luis said was only gross "the first time."
In the garden, students have planted wheat, flowers and corn, part of an Indian corn project, Wheeler said.
A native plant bed is designed to draw hummingbirds and butterflies.
Though the Modesto Native Plant Society donated seedlings for that bed, most of the vegetables are grown from seed. Maya said Wheeler makes it easy to figure out how deep to plant the seeds — "She puts a dot on our finger."
Wheeler said the children get a sense of ownership from the garden and learn to collaborate to make it work. And they learn early that vegetables can be tasty.
"Nutrition is obviously a big part of it," she said. "Kids are more willing to eat their vegetables growing up."
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2343.