In the CGBL Spring Newsletter we solicited garden-based learning success stories to feature in the quarterly newsletter and blog. We are excited to share this first garden story with you from the Dewitt Middle School in Ithaca, NY. *Submissions always welcome. Email us 2 – 3 paragraphs that includes the garden project’s mission or goals, a description of the success story and its impacts, and attach two to three JPG. photos of the project (with rights released). Be sure to include your address, phone #, email, and project website (if applicable).
The Super Duper Veggie Garden of Doom and Broccoli sits on 6,000 square feet of what used to be a lawn about 100 feet south of the school building. It’s close enough to Wayne Gottlieb’s 7th grade science class (from which the Super Duper name of the garden originates) that even the most reluctant students can get there in 4 minutes. Students make this trek several times year round, in November to put their beds to sleep, in March to sow salad green, in May to transplant their tomatoes and peppers and in June to harvest greens and weed their plots. In the summer students volunteer to do summer maintenance and sample the harvest. In summer 2011 40 students volunteered in the hopes of sharing a watermelon during a break from building trellises and harvesting carrots.
The garden was built in 2009 as a way of integrating sustainability into the science curriculum. It was hoped that science concepts, cell biology, plant biology, reproduction and genetics, could be taught through gardening. To some extent this has come about, however, efficiently integrating content from the NYS science curriculum remains challenging. The impact on the school community is incredible. Cafeteria staff enjoy serving fresh garden veggies at lunch in the spring and fall. Most students love gardening and many have learned to appreciate kale and other vegetables. Parents have been a big resource as garden volunteers to supervise activities, share about their own gardens or even deliver mature horse manure or bags of dry leaves.
The success of the garden has been dependent on donations of money and volunteer hours from parents, teachers, community members and organizations. Generous grants from Lowe’s, the Ithaca Public Education Initiative and Donor’s Choose have allowed us to purchase everything we need to run the garden. We’ve also depend heavily on parents, DeWitt School staff and community members who volunteered to build the garden or supervise students. Gardens 4 Humanity and Cornell Cooperative Extension – Tompkins County have been instrumental in helping to find experts in the community who want to help out. The garden has greatly benefited from collaborations with other DeWitt teachers. The art teacher joined us in designing and painting a mural on the shed. Gates were designed and built by students in the Technology student’ association. These donations of time and money serve not only to keep the garden going, but to form important bonds between the school and the community.