The crocuses are up in my home garden and my thoughts are turning to our school plot. After only one year of growing veggies together, it’s starting to feel as if our kids’ school garden is on the verge of becoming a true outdoor classroom. Our garden committee applied for and was given a grant from the Fulbright Foundation to create curriculum and some physical infrastructure, and are also being funded by our Parent Council—a key factor, I think, in embedding the project in the school community. We’re working with the awesome Arlene Hazzan Green, a former school parent, now backyard garden guru with BUFCO, to create a garden plan—rotate the plants, establish companion planting plots, discussing direct sow versus seedlings in the classroom, excavating new beds, etc.
All good stuff, but in our quest to make this a learning resource, there are two things that are most exciting to me. The first is that teachers are running with it. Some have even made Food their focus for the term, with a soup theme bubbling up—both metaphorically and literally. They’ll be reading soup books, discussing food and making soup using plants from our garden (we’re crossing our collective fingers for a good spring harvest). We’re also revivifying composting at the school. We’ll be having a composting workshop and assembly, but in the meantime, one teacher created a lesson plan for other classes to discuss what can go in the bins. Teachers have also been talking to the children about what we should be planting this year. Peas, raspberries, strawberries are all on the list. (As are bananas and mangoes….not likely in our northern climate.)
Which leads me to the second element of the school garden that I’m really excited about: the kids love it. We worried a lot before we began last year about the children walking on the soil and over the plants. They’d had free rein for years in the terraced beds we planned to plant, but after getting involved preparing the soil, making signs, growing seedlings, planting seedlings and seeds, and watching the garden grow, almost every kid in the school respected the garden enough not to tread on the plots. They feel ownership, and many of the kids (my own 7-year-old included) consider themselves guardians of the garden and warn others against messing with the soil.
Recently, the teachers opened the Eco-Club—some of their responsibilities include monitoring lunchtime composting and recycling—up to children in the younger grades. The response has been nearly overwhelming. Tons of kids have shown up. And unlike their older bretheren, they’re happy to do the messy stuff. Meanwhile, the older kids are working on researching, designing and editing signage that we plan to post in the garden as a permanent educational tool.
The warm weather around here is certainly making it seem closer, but with promise like this, it’s no wonder I dream of spring.