Sunday, September 30, 2012

Afton Elementary School Garden

Written by Master Gardener Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch

On August 2011 I started planing a new school vegetable garden at Afton Elementary School in Lower Makefield Township. In the past I had also helped to start and currently continue helping at Newton Elementary School's garden but Afton is very special to me because my two daughters attend this school. By January 2012 we had a nice group of parents helping in the planing committee and most important we had the full support of the principal of the school, Mr. Joseph Masgai, and the teachers.

On April 2012 we started Phase One of the project. We built 11 raised beds made of cedar wood, brought soil and mulch donated by Shady Brook Farm and the students council donated a shed that the students helped decorating. Thanks to a Waste Management Grant we were able to install a drip irrigation system.

By early May we started planting vegetables and herbs. All 568 students from kindergarten to 5th grade participated. Two local farmers and myself talked to the kids about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, then we seeded and used transplants all kinds: carrots, basil, rosemary, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, radish, pumpkins, etc.

I was amazed to see how happy and involved the kids were. It was an amazing experience that continues to grow. We received at least one hundred letters and emails from students and parents thanking us for the garden. Some parents even told us that because if the school garden, they started their own vegetable gardens in their backyards.

During the summer, we scheduled one family per week to help with weeding and harvesting. Part of the harvest was donated to local food pantries,;it was also enjoyed by each family and the basil was donated to Villa Rosa and Carlucci's Restaurant where you can still see signs saying that they use our basil.

At the beginning of September we planted some cold weather crops.

This garden is located in the school's courtyard. So far we have utilized half of the space. Phase Two of the project is to build an outdoor classroom gazebo style with benches and tables. Phase Three consists of the construction of a "playscape" where children can play and enjoy perennials and a butterfly garden.

This winter I am planing to help the teachers incorporate the garden in the school's lesson plans. Thanks to the principal and the support of school's PTO, everybody is on board. Next year the cafeteria will use the harvest in the children's lunch and help with composting. This fall the principal requested that, weather permitted, children walk through the garden every morning when they line up and go to their classrooms.

I would like to mention that Sue Schneck was extremely helpful and supportive in the initial steps to make this possible by helping me to gather all the resources for communities gardens. I am very proud of being a Master Gardener and it is fantastic to know that there are 100 of us all over Bucks County doing great things for our community. I also would like to mention that the transplants were bought at the MG Annual Sale back in May and Bonnie Olliver was so gracious to donate all the seeds that we used.

No comments:

Post a Comment