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JET Programme Voices / Once upon a pumpkin patch

Courtesy of Jayne Arnold

Arnold, left, teaches students how to carve jack-o-lanterns.

By Jayne Arnold / Special to The Japan NewsMy name is Jayne Arnold and I am from Wisconsin in the United States. I am a fifth-year Assistant Language Teacher with the JET Programme in Kagoshima.

It all started with a pumpkin in October 2015. I had been planning a Halloween event with a local international exchange group when I learned that a coworker at my school and her family were growing American-style pumpkins. Upon inquiring I received a few pumpkins, and thanks to the family’s kindness, the event was a success.

Every year I received more pumpkins and used them again for the Halloween event but also for classes at the high school. It was great to share Halloween traditions with people in Kagoshima. This past summer my coworker came to me with the idea of growing the pumpkins on school grounds. It struck me as a potentially fun idea for the students, so I enthusiastically agreed.

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  • Courtesy of Jayne Arnold

    Jayne Arnold

The plot is between the home economics building and the club building. I had hardly noticed it before. It was a shallow cement enclosure filled with soil and a few scattered pieces of plastic. It was routinely trampled without any notice; it was nothing but dirt.

We planted seeds and the empty patch soon sprouted long vines. Other teachers took notice and helped contribute to the garden. To prevent balls and students from entering the garden by accident, the art teacher put up a rope barrier. Later, the school’s handyman made a bamboo fence. The once-empty space that no one had noticed became a thriving garden. Students took interest, and when they saw me in the garden they would come up and ask questions.

Everyone was excited to see the field grow into a lively pumpkin patch, and we eventually got three pumpkins. One was long with spots of green, another round and a little bumpy. They weren’t perfect but to us they were the most beautiful pumpkins in the world.

We decided to use them for jack-o-lanterns. The students had never carved pumpkins before and they were excited to try. The carved, friendly faces of the jack-o-lanterns decorated the school for Halloween. Students, teachers, and guests were all able to enjoy the pumpkins.

Due to the kindness of so many people, the field was a success. But it was more than just an agricultural project. It was an opportunity for me to bond with the teachers and students. You never know the people or events that will lead to memorable experiences. I found one of mine out in the garden. The possibilities are endless.

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