Bellevue school shares STEM garden harvest with Offutt Airman’s Attic Published Aug. 25, 2023 By Kendra Williams, 55th Wing Public Affairs BELLEVUE, Neb. -- Twin Ridge Elementary School in Bellevue started a garden this past spring with a Department of Defense Education Activity STEM grant and is sharing its produce with Offutt Air Force Base Airman’s Attic food pantry. The school has strong ties to the military with many of the students’ parents serving at Offutt. Susan Colvin, an Offutt Advisory Council member, helped get the grant and selected Twin Ridge as the recipient to develop a garden where students could volunteer and learn through hands-on experience. The garden will provide sustainability for the DoDEA STEM grant in upcoming years. “We contacted all the elementary schools, and this was the best fit for the funds,” said Colvin. “Twin Ridge staff has been amazing. I provided the opportunity, and they snatched it up and made it work.” Dr. Dana Martin, Twin Ridge school principal, formed a partnership with the Airman’s Attic to share the produce once it’s harvested. “Our students are cultivating and learning from the experience of growing the garden and giving back to the community,” said Colvin. Amber Serenil, a Twin Ridge teacher, researched the project to determine what grows well in the area and what vegetation pairs well with others for the best results. Numerous classrooms volunteered to care for seedlings in their classrooms until they produced sprouts. Staff members and students transferred the sprouts to the garden and planted them before the last day of school so they could flourish unrestrained. They volunteered during their free time to care for and maintain the garden, ensuring small animals and harmful insects did not hinder the growth process. “Ms. Nikki Staples and I have been pulling weeds, watering, and checking on the garden over the summer,” said Serenil. The STEM aligned project has become a labor of love and serves the students and teachers as a hands-on approach to many classroom and life lessons.