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Garden FUN-damentals by Michael Stone, 6-9 teacher

Some children sit together, looking through seed catalogs, deciding which seeds to buy. Others brainstorm with a teacher, creatively thinking about ways to raise money, once plants are growing and begin to produce. Teachers, always planning the next lesson, reflect on what was recently noticed in the garden: bees pollinating female zucchini flowers; kale and carrots, yesterday beautiful, today, their top leaves eaten; clay pots filled with lettuce, ready to be harvested; basil in the greenhouse, wilting; a good soak with water needed. Projects to be worked on, lessons to be taught, wonder to be shared. Welcome to our school garden!

The Brixham garden has transformed over the years from a few raised beds, planted and tended in the spring with enthusiasm, often forgotten in the summer, to a thriving and productive year-round learning experience and teaching environment. There is a greenhouse, where seedlings planted in the early spring are carefully tended and transplanted when the threat of frost is past. A utility sink, hooked up to a garden hose, allows easy access to water, as well as being a place for freshly harvested lettuce to be rinsed before being sold at the farm stand. A “compass pole”, marking the center of a new herb garden, reminds students of the cardinal directions, north, south, east and west, and helps them decide which raised bed might be best for a specific plant to grow and thrive in, based on the sun’s position in the sky. Strong fencing and sturdy gates allow children in, yet help deter larger pests from enjoying the bounty.

The physical space itself has changed and evolved over time, subsequently, so has the curriculum that supports it.  Under teacher advisement, upper elementary students now plan, organize and guide all Brixham students in different garden related activities throughout the year. This fall, older students will get a chance to assess the needs of the garden as the cooler weather takes hold. They will plan activities for younger students that will continue throughout the seasons. Some of the work will be to harvest plants that are ready, and dig up and replant others in pots that will be brought into the greenhouse for winter care. Herbs will be cut, hung, and dried- a reminder of summer to be tasted on those cold winter days. Fresh basil will be picked and cleaned; pesto will be made, tasted and shared. Daffodil bulbs will be planted for a spring flower sale. Seeds will be sown in trays and kept and coaxed in the warmth of the greenhouse with hopes of an early winter harvest of salad greens. Much of the work will be spontaneous, based on student interest and curiosity or current need. Lessons will be created and shared; observations will be made and recorded.

The school garden has changed over the years, and so, to, has the curriculum that supports it. Creative thinking, planning, learning, and the joy of gardening are all fundamental components of the evolving Brixham garden experience. Plus, nothing compares to the taste of a freshly picked green bean! garden-2016

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