April 2010 Update: Learning Garden Garners Master Gardener Designation
The URI Master Gardener Association (URI MGA) has designated the Meadowbrook Learning Garden an official Community Project, opening up access to resources that will greatly enhance the sustainability of the school-based garden.
Operating as a program of the URI CELS Kathleen M. Mallon Outreach Center, the Master Gardener Association is made up of dedicated, trained volunteers who provide community service and educational outreach on gardening and horticulture throughout the state with the goal of promoting healthy, sustainable gardening environments.
The URI MGA receives many requests for assistance each year. Organizations interested in receiving URI MGA Community Project designation must go through a rigorous application process that requires the applicant to articulate the educational activities associated with the project and how the garden will benefit the recipients and the community at large. Organizations must also demonstrate that they have the resources necessary to make a garden successful, including access to land and water and the materials necessary to create and maintain a garden.
The Meadowbrook Learning Garden was spearheaded by third grade teacher Patricia Page, with the support of a $7,000 grant from the East Greenwich Education Foundation. The goal of the Learning Garden is to promote the practical application of academic knowledge in support of Grade Level Expectations. Through a school garden, students will utilize functional knowledge and skills in mathematics, life science, writing, nutrition, physical fitness, and fine arts. Students have calculated bed sizes, and will research crops, manage budgets, create and implement plans for planting, observe and record plant growth and insect populations, harvest crops, and integrate student-grown healthy foods into meals.
The task of planting, caring for, and harvesting the crops may be shared across grade levels and with other school and community partners, and their gardening practices will respect and respond to the natural environment. According to URI MGA Community Project Coordinator Nan Quinlan, who manages all 15 URI MGA community projects around the state: “We were very excited about the way in which Patricia Page connected the gardening activities with the curriculum and the concept of stewardship, as well as the way in which she promoted a community collaboration model through which everyone would be able to learn about sustainable gardening practices. We are so looking forward to working with Pat and her budding Meadowbrook gardeners!” Now that the project has been approved, the Meadowbrook Learning Garden can expect support from the URI MGA in many forms:
The URI MGA provides master gardeners to educate and train project leaders on garden design, planning and layout, propagation, planting, and maintaining and harvesting. The URI MGA uses a blended learning model that includes educational talks given by master gardeners and hands-on training – often one-on-one right in the garden. Master gardeners supervise garden startup activities so community volunteers working in the garden will learn how to maintain it on their own.
According to Ms. Page: “I always envisioned this project as providing a collaborative and shared-responsibility model that supports the goal of enhancing student awareness of environmental and social stewardship. Students will have the opportunity to develop a sense of their role within a larger society by interacting with community volunteers, faculty, and students from partnering entities, including the high school. This partnership with the URI MGA brings us one major step toward that goal. We’re very excited!” The Learning Garden project is an example of how innovative curricula can cross grade and school boundaries.
According to East Greenwich High School science teacher Chris Wren, the high school will be playing a supportive role by providing access to newly constructed greenhouses in the science wing. “It’s a great partnership,” says Mr. Wren, “because students at Meadowbrook will be able to use some of the greenhouse space to germinate seeds and grow seedlings. High School Environmental Science students will be able to help by watering and repotting plants as necessary.
We’re also looking at additional ways to incorporate many of the learning garden concepts into our curriculum, including having the high school students work with the elementary school students on environmental science.” Says EGEF President Jack Sommer: “The Meadowbrook Learning Garden is a perfect example of the kind of sustainable innovation we are looking to support through our grants program.
This project is planting a seed, quite literally, that we believe moves us toward the world class education we want for our kids. I believe it will serve as a model for elementary schools everywhere.”
February 2010 Update
It’s time to name the garden!!! The MFS Learning Garden project is pleased to announce a Garden Naming and Logo Contest. The deadline for entries is February 26, 2010, and are to be dropped off in the PTG mailbox. If you have any questions, please contact Robbyn Liesching at firstname.lastname@example.org or 885-3810.
Over the winter, the 3rd grade is researching the types of crops that may be planted in the garden. The task of planting, caring for and harvesting the crops will be shared across grade levels and with other school and community partners, and their gardening practices will respect and respond to the natural environment.
Meadowbrook staff and Mentors of Meadowbrook students have recently been invited to participate in a Children’s Garden Network Workshop. The Children’s Garden Network Campaign 2010 is assisting communities to grow garden programs at every school in Rhode Island. This workshop is a great opportunity to learn everything you need to know about year-round sustainable school garden education programs that work! Participants will learn how to form a committed garden team, design a school garden layout, raise funds and access tools and other resources, incorporate garden activities into your class work, create a field guide for your school’s environment, and ensure that students with special needs are always included.
Finally, Meadowbrook staff is reviewing information received from URI, and plans to review the viability and benefits of having the MFS Learning Garden receive URI Project Designation.
November 2009 Update
Patricia Page, 3rd grade teacher at Meadowbrook, was awarded a grant to build a “Learning Garden” at Meadowbrook. The garden beds were created this fall with the generous assistance of The Grenier Group. Mrs. Page’s class calculated the perimeter and area. Mr. Morin helped the class measure and stake out the perimeter of the beds. Then the Grenier Group, led by Mr.Grenier and the entire Grenier Family, spent their Saturday afternoon digging and constructing the beds. The beds measure 16 feet by 4 feet and 3 feet by 3 feet. Mrs. Page’s class was then able to determine the cubic volume of the two raised beds.
The next phase of the project will involve having the 3rd grade research types of crops that may be planted in the garden. The task of planting, caring for and harvesting the crops may be shared across grade levels and with other school and community partners, and their gardening practices will respect and respond to the natural environment.
The idea for a Learning Garden came from a Time for Kids article. The article discussed the correlation between improvements in math and science scores and student involvement in school-based garden projects. The Learning Garden will provide students at Meadowbrook the opportunity to calculate bed size, manage a budget, observe and record plant growth, harvest crops and enjoy healthy sneaks.
As a way of involving and engaging as many students as possible, the project has launched a naming and logo development contest for the garden. Stay tuned!