By Tamas Mondovics

Gardening may be a fun and relatively easy activity for most, unless you are in a wheelchair and even getting close to a garden bed presents a challenge.

Thanks to a generous $500 JC Penny after-school grant, Riverview High School Exceptional Student Education (ESE) students that are bound to a wheelchair but have an interest in gardening, will now have a chance to get their thumbs a bit greener while at school. The support of the 35-member Chautauqua 4-H Club, which meets at the school every first and third Tuesday of the month, has launched a gardening project by planting a traditional garden. According to club leader, Karen Hamilton, in order to build on the project, club members that range in ages from five to 17 discussed a couple of different options:  hydroponics, raised bed gardening and patio gardening, all of which, she said  required extra finances.

“Since, many of the ESE students in wheelchairs are not able to bend over to plant or harvest from a garden, we have designed two different types of raised bed gardens, which will solve the problem and allow these students to take full share in the caring of the garden,” Hamilton said. The first is a permanent design, which makes use of concrete blocks to build the raised bed while using the space in the center of the blocks to also plant in.

The club also decided to build some portable table-type beds to allow the wheelchair students to have access. These tables are currently located at the Agriculture Land Laboratory.

“We can use the tractor to move these tables closer to their classrooms for easier access,” Hamilton said.

It is also noteworthy that while the club hopes to create agricultural awareness for the school’s ESE students, the same is true for its own club members. Hamilton emphasized that many club members have never grown a garden and do not know where their food comes from or what to do with the produce they grow. “We plan to teach them about canning and preserving the foods they grow and to have a cooking challenge with them to see who can create the best recipe with the vegetables they have grown,” she said. Chautauqua 4-H hopes to have the raised bed gardens completed by the end of the month and have the students start planting soon after.

The ongoing project is promising to keep students and club members busy and is a fine testimony of a community-oriented spirit. For more information, please contact Hamilton at

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