A Taste for the Garden

The Thetford Elementary School garden is looking great; full and abundant after a summer of tender care by Cat and I and a slew of local volunteers. After weekly maintenance meet-ups, we all developed such a fond affection for these beautiful raised beds. It is really awesome that tucked silently behind the school is a growing and vibrant landscape, full of life, color, edibles and opportunities for learning!

Our pumpkins are sizing up well and turning a beautiful shade of orange. We have been delighted to watch a rogue squash hybrid emerge and grow in one of our gardens. We think the squash grew from a seed that remained viable in the compost that was added to the beds in the spring. The plant is huge and healthy but the fruits ripening on it are unidentifiable. They are certainly funky.

The first graders focus on the Three Sisters gardens, of which pumpkin/squash is one of the three interconnected relatives. In their garden tour, the first graders also got to check out the developing black popcorn and the beans that are growing with their sister squash. They also got the opportunity to act out the interconnected quality of the Three Sisters with a role-playing game in the garden, learning how all three crops depend on each other for nutrients and structure.

Kale is in its prime in the gardens with the cooler weather beginning to settle in. We are growing four different types of kale in the gardens: winterbor, white russian, red russian and winter red kale. The TES second graders especially, and surprisingly, love this dark leafy green! After playing a game about pollinators in the garden, we got out of the heat, went back to the classroom and had a garden celebration party with crispy kale chips made by kitchen manager Shelia alongside farm-made mint and honey iced tea. It was delicious. Kids do love their greens, especially in chip form! (Is that suggestion making you hungry? Try Crispy Kale Chips at home.

The garden is still awash with color. Flowers are blooming, cherry tomatoes are ripening, and yellow swiss chard is beautifully glowing. Our group of Kindergarteners got to experience and study some of these colors. As they are learning to identify their full array of senses, we focused on using the sense of sight in the garden. They did an awesome job of identifying all of the colors of the rainbow within the garden beds.

It was so wonderful to see that even after the long summer, kids arrived back at school with a memory of the gardens and ready to engage again with them. As the kids grow, they cycle through a different themed garden each year. They are very aware of the pattern of this process, easily reflecting on last year’s project and looking forward to their year to come. We are so excited that these gardens are being used by teachers as an outdoor classroom. Additionally, we love hearing that Shelia visits the garden every day to harvest vegetables for the kitchen. She is picking tomatoes, greens, and herbs to include in her menu. Thetford Elementary students are certainly developing a taste for the garden.

-Lauren Harris, Education Programs Assistant

If you’re interested in hearing more about my experience in the TES gardens, check out my previous blog entry Unique Educational Opportunity. To learn more about our educational programs, visit our Education page.

photos: CCF staff

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