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Riverview Elementary School hosts student art contest to promote SOIL project

Illustrations depict how gardening helps individuals grow
Parents and students evaluate artwork at Tuesday’s Seeds of Inspiration Lab Art Contest. The SOIL project is entering its first phase and garden beds will be planted in June. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald)

Riverview Elementary School’s Seeds of Inspiration Lab held an art contest this week to generate excitement as the first part of the school’s project gets underway.

Students submitted their artwork last month and finalists were chosen for the event Tuesday. The theme of the event was “How does your garden help you grow?”

Park Elementary School third grader Sasha Zaykovskaya took home first place, while Riverview fifth grader Emmie Wyatt took home second place and Miller Middle School eighth grader Samina Wienk earned third place.

“I thought it would be a good thing just to have some student work on display right from the beginning,” said Riverview Elementary School science teacher Charlie Love.

Riverview science teacher Charlie Love counts votes at Tuesday’s art contest at Riverview Elementary School. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald)

Love has been an instrumental part of the school’s SOIL project, which is an interactive gardening lab at Riverview. The SOIL project is going through its first phase of completion. Excavation has begun west of the bus circle at Riverview and Love said the garden beds should be ready for planting by June.

Love hopes the Soil Project will kick off a new phase of building the community garden each year. Phase 1 is simply planting the seeds and growing the garden. Phase 2 will add demonstration gardens and an event space. Phase 3 will add a grow dome for year-round growing, while phase 4 will be building a food forest and a farm lab for permaculture. Phase 5 will finalize the project by building a SOIL learning center for the community and school district programs.

Refreshments are offered at the entryway to the SOIL Community Garden at Tuesday’s art contest. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald)
Park Elementary third grader Sasha Zaykovskaya shows off her artwork that won first place at Tuesday’s art contest. (Courtesy of Karla Sluis)

Adrienne Murphy, who volunteered at the Ohana Kuleana Community Garden and with the SOIL Project, helped decide the finalists for the art competition. The competition took 300 submissions from across the school district.

“We’ve got them from kindergarten to 12th grade, so there’s quite a variety of art. But I wouldn’t take away that creativity from the little ones,” she said.

Murphy said the students’ work was evaluated based on their creativity and ability to answer the question: “How does a garden help you grow?”

Zaykovskaya drew a scenic picture of a garden with a rainbow flowing through it, and Wyatt drew a photo of a gardener planting vegetables.

Wyatt said gardening helps students grow by supporting their physical and emotional health.

Love said it is important for students to understand how gardening can help students besides learning to grow food.

He said having the art contest allows students to think about gardening in a different way than just growing food. It gives students the opportunity to artistically represent how gardening can impact their lives and the community. It also offers a way for students interested in art to potentially become fascinated by gardening as well.

Love was not the only one impressed by the children’s artwork. Those who volunteered to help the SOIL project showed up to vote on who had done the best job.

Karyn Gabaldon, who owns an art studio, was amazed at the artwork students had made. She was responsible for hanging the artwork along the garden fence for the art show.

“I just want to help out with the community and I think it's just great to be outdoors and have this happening,” she said.

Her favorite piece was done by Riverview fourth grader Rylan Lile featuring a phrase that said, “Never give up and keep on growing.” She was inspired by the phrase and felt it was a powerful sentiment for a fourth grader to have.

The SOIL project intends to offer experiential science learning opportunities to students as well as give Durango another community garden after Ohana Kuleana closed. It will offer garden beds to students, school families and community members.

“Hopefully, we’ll get people who want to be engaged, whether that’s energetically, word-of-mouth or financially,” Love said.

Love plans to make the art contest an annual event to show student work and decorate the outer fence of the garden.

tbrown@durangoherald.com

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