“Connectedness to land, school, community… .” That’s what local parents had in mind last year when they asked the New Hope-Solebury (NHS) Upper Elementary School to consider starting a schoolyard vegetable garden. Inspired by restauranteer Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard in Berkely, CA, the garden was intended “to give students an outdoor, hands-on classroom where they could learn about nutrition, healthy eating and the environment, ” says Sharleen Smith, one of the parents behind the garden project.
Making it all happen would take the whole school community. Parent volunteers, faculty and students worked together to pick a site for the garden, build raised beds and fencing, choose what to grow, compost, plant and finally harvest the first year’s bounty. Along the way, the “teachable moments” were many. Fourth and fifth graders tasked with planning out the garden beds applied their multiplication and measuring skills as well as their newfound knowledge of various plants. Third, fourth and fifth graders, asked to collect leftovers from snack time, learned about healthy eating habits, the importance of reducing waste and the art of turning banana peals and apple cores into rich organic compost.
Now in its second school year, the NHS garden continues to be a lively teaching tool, providing hands-on experience with seed planting, soil testing and composting and even conveying a bit of history, such as how Native Americans planted their “three-sisters gardens.” This year, students also are learning the art of giving back to the community, donating surplus crops to Lambertville, NJ’s, Fisherman’s Mark (www.fishermansmark.org) food bank.
To learn more about what’s going on at the NHS schoolyard garden, visit http://nhssd.wordpress.com.