Wielding trowels, hand cultivators and watering cans, Powell Elementary students eagerly learned their first lesson in the science of botany, planting a variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers in six brand new garden boxes installed on Nov. 16.

Powell is one of three Azusa Unified School District campuses to receive the sustainable-living receptacles. Valleydale Elementary and Magnolia Elementary also received garden boxes.

Spinach, cabbage, lettuce, peppermint, snow peas, chard and pansies in luminous colors of green, red and purple sprouted up from the sturdy wooden boxes, as the new Powell student gardeners chanted the four elements needed to stimulate growth – “Water, sunshine, soil, air!” – sinking their garden tools into the rich soil.

“The new gardens were greeted with great enthusiasm by the students, who are taking their excitement back to the classroom to learn more about the science of growing and the first steps toward creating a sustainable environment,” AUSD Superintendent Dr. Linda Kaminski said. “This is a wonderful gift for our schools, and we thank the families from Faith Community Church who provided the materials and devoted their time assembling the boxes.”

At Powell, the garden boxes fit in perfectly with GROW, the academic theme established at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year by the school’s students and staff, likening the building blocks of education – reading, science, social studies, math and writing – as leaves on a plant. Now, students are invested in tending to their own greenery, and lining up to be part of a new school gardening club.

“I like planting things and seeing them grow,” said Powell fifth-grader Doris Loi. “Farmers are hard at work harvesting their crops, they bring it to the markets and we buy it.”

In preparation for the garden box installation, District grounds crews came to Powell, cut out space on the south end of their grass field, installed a plastic ground cover and laid wood chips.

On Oct. 31, parishioners from West Covina’s Faith Community Church donated their time to help install the boxes, as part of the church’s “Love Loud” outreach project that mobilized 1,500 volunteers performing over 4,000 hours of community service at numerous locations in the San Gabriel Valley.

“This was truly a collaborative effort between the community, the students, the teachers and the District,” said Principal Jennifer Wiebe. “The children will now experience all the different stages of plant growth, and take that knowledge home with them to start gardens with their families.”

The students have also been made aware that gardening requires constant vigilance, and that some of the plants will thrive, while others will wither.

“This is a wonderful program to bring to the elementary schools,” said AUSD Board President Yolanda Rodriguez-Pena. “Not only do the gardens make the campuses more beautiful, students will get a better understanding of the importance of eating healthy meals. The new gardens will be educating our children for years to come.”

PHOTOS: Students at Powell Elementary tend to their new garden, featuring flowers, herbs and vegetables. The school was one of three Azusa Unified campuses to receive garden boxes to promote sustainable and healthy living.