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Wowk students growing community

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 2:49 PDT, Fri April 24, 2020

Last Updated: 2:13 PDT, Wed May 12, 2021

While students are learning remotely, finding a sense of school community can be a challenge. But Wowk elementary principal Wanda Salewski is bringing students together—from home—through a sunflower growing program.

“The essence of a school is developing a sense of belonging, and that’s why kids do a school wide project,” says Salewski. 

After arriving at Wowk in February, Salewski says she was struck by the warmth of the school’s students and families. While considering options for at-home connection, she thought of the new outdoor learning area and garden plots being installed at the school—and was inspired.

“We can have every child grow a sunflower at home, bring it back to school and plant it in one of our garden plots,” says Salewski. “I wanted something that the little kids and the older kids could do. Gardening has that universal appeal and that magic.”

So Salewski planted over 200 sunflower seeds in individual pots, with the help of family and other members of the Wowk teaching and administrative staff. She packaged the sunflowers in bags—donated by Richmond company Bulldog Bag—and wrote a short poem to go on the outside.

In addition to a pre-planted seed, each student received a sunflower-shaped chocolate from Sinfully The Best. Salewski also created a growth instruction sheet and several activity booklets for different grade levels.

Deliveries happened on Wednesday thanks to help from Wowk staff members. Salewski says she arrived home to an inbox filled with emails from families telling her how thoughtful her initiative was.

And she’s participating in the project too. Each Friday, she plans to post on the Wowk website with an update on students’ flowers, including submitted photos.

Students can choose whether they want to keep their flowers or bring them back to Wowk to be planted.

“I just thought, how beautiful would it be when we come back in September to have 200 sunflowers welcoming us,” says Salewski.

The project is called Growing Together.

“Even though we’re apart, we’re growing something together and we are growing together symbolically,” says Salewski.

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