ETON — Though COVID-19 has prevented Eton Elementary School from sharing student projects with parents and the community anywhere near as much as the school does in a typical year, anyone could sample — and even purchase — the fruits of student labor during the inaugural Farm Raiser on April 25.
"It's a great idea, (as) lots of parents can see what their kids have been working on," said Michael Knight, father of Eton Elementary fifth-grader Katie and second-grader Luke. "Maybe it'll get bigger and be" an annual event.
That is the goal, said Principal Elizabeth Selvage. "We hope to scale up every year."
"Next year, this place is going to be full," Assistant Principal Jennifer Jones said as she gestured toward the school's parking lot, noting, "We have big dreams, and we hope to build up year by year."
Available products at the Farm Raiser included everything from plants and flowers to lip balm, all produced by students as part of the STEM-certified school's curriculum, Selvage said. A focal point for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education is the school's active beehive, which is "doing remarkably well this year, and the kids just love it."
With the beehive, growing pollinators and planting them around the school for bees is an emphasis at Eton Elementary, she said.
"The overage, we're selling today to the community."
Hazelyn Jones and her fourth-grade classmates focused on plants for their project, and "some did really good, (while) others did OK," she said. "It's fun to plant them, (then sell) them."
Students in kindergarten and first grade cultivated wildflowers, sunflowers, oregano, cilantro and bachelor's button, among others, for their STEM project, then sold them at the Farm Raiser, said Mandy White, who teaches those grades.
"They also came up with the prices, and kindergarteners recycled cans from the cafeteria to be plant holders."
"They were excited, and they loved it," White said. To then sell them at the Farm Raiser "is great, and it's a fun experience to get everyone together and involved."
Students in grade five "gathered the materials, like beeswax, coconut and shea butter, melted them down, measured," etc., to produce lip balms, which were sold at the Farm Raiser, said fifth-grade teacher Tim Etheridge. "We try to do as much hands-on learning as possible."
The Knight family purchased lip balm, plants and flowers, and "it's good to see what they've been up to," said Michael's wife, Lagina. "We bought a couple of the flowers" produced by Luke and his class, and "we're going to plant them at our house."
Other local vendors were also represented, and the school offered student music performances throughout the day, too, Selvage said.
"With COVID-19, we've not been able to have families in our school this year," she said.
"All of our guest speakers have been virtual, and our field trips have been virtual," she said. The Farm Raiser, however, was "a safe, outdoor way for our families and community to all be together."
That included the newest Eton Elementary "family member," Waylon, a 6-week-old "kid" Jones plans to turn into an unofficial mascot for the school and take to classrooms for visits.
Waylon, a pygmy goat, was rescued by Eton Elementary alumna Hannah DeFoor, when his "mother didn't take to him," Jones said. Waylon may have been the most popular attraction, as "kids love to play with him, and he's such a gentle creature."
"He's house-trained and potty-trained," Jones said. "He's a human, our little buddy, and yesterday he slept in my arms for two hours as I rocked him."
The Farm Raiser was "an awesome way to get everyone together and learn what everyone is doing," DeFoor said. Due to COVID-19, "we haven't all seen each other like this in a long time."