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Salad days

Sterling third-graders growing – and eating – their grades

STERLING – Washington Elementary School third-graders have gone greens.

They even eat their science projects.

The school has installed a tower garden – a 6-and-a-half-foot-tall aeroponic planter (air, water, nutrients, no dirt) – in each of its three third-grade science classrooms.

Each tower holds as many as 28 veggie-producing plants. Kids and staff harvest, wash, chop and munch out on baby spinach, kale, tomatoes, dill, cucumbers and more.

At Washington, salad parties have become quite the thing. Forget your lunch? Simply swipe a few leaves and whip one up.

“They love it,” teacher Jenah Burkitt said. “They took ownership of it, and some of them are trying things they wouldn’t normally try.”

The plants also tie in to science units on germination and sprouting.

Theonia Shaw, 8, of Sterling, likes to dress her greens up.

“I like carrots in my salad and cheese, ranch dressing and bacon,” she said at Friday morning’s salad party.

Her students also wanted to grow strawberries, but Burkitt, afraid they would turn into squishy, hand-launched missiles, nixed that idea.

The science project was the brainchild of third-grade teacher Amanda Spohn and Principal Lindsy Stumpenhorst.

The towers – and grow lights, seeds, nutrients, planting guides, lesson plans, and other support – come from a company called Juice Plus ( All told, they cost about $3,300, paid for with Walmart and Sterling Schools Foundation grants.

And they’re pretty, to boot.

Other teachers are taking note; Burkitt said. It’s possible the project will take root at other district schools.

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