ct nofa logo
Issue No. 4
August 2012

Growing and Learning 

In This Issue
Start the Kids Early!
Establishing Your School Garden
Saving Seeds
Bridgeport Gardens Are Growing!
Wilton High School Workshop
Summer Management
Doing Thyme
Not Just a School Garden...
Annie's Contest Winners
Food Day
Lunch Bites
What's On Your Plate?
SGN Resources Page
CT NOFA Workshops
News and Notes

Quick Links




It's hard to believe, but summer is almost over and soon our schools  - and our school gardens - will be brimming with students ready to start the new year.  We hope you have been enjoying your summer!  Now as thoughts are turning back to reading, writing, and 'rithmetic, let's be sure to incorporate gardening into the lesson plans. 

This is a great time to start a school garden.  For ideas on how to take that first step, visit the CT NOFA School Garden Resources page.  There we've compiled a wide array of sources to help you get the ball rolling.  If you've got your garden up and growing already, you will find information on keeping your garden running smoothly and keeping the students engaged and involved.  You can also view past issues of Growing and Learning for more ideas.

In this issue of Growing and Learning we've included some great resources for curriculum, ideas for funding and maintaining your garden, and inspirational stories of successful school gardens, programs, and projects.  We're sure there is something here to motivate and inspire!

And remember, we love to hear from you.  Send us your news, photos, success stories (and problems!) and anything else you'd like to share about your school garden. 

Here's to a great school year!



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Start the Kids Early!

By Jenna Messier, NOFA Organic Land Care Program Director


At Seastar Explorers Family Daycare in Ansonia, CT, kids from ages 2 to 5 are planting seeds and gardening as part of their education. I know this because my son has been gardening and learning for two years with Ada Merrill, Director and Owner.


In early spring, the kids plant corn, lettuce, beans and more and place them on two large shelves in front of the windows. Eventually, they plant the seedlings outside and bring some home in little paper cups.


Later in the spring, kids plant peas and beans outside in the gardens surrounding their play area where they can easily care for their plants, harvest and eat fresh food right out of the garden. Delicious strawberries are planted in a nearby raised bed where kids can easily reach in and pick them.Seastar Explorers Daycare


This year Ada expanded her gardens by digging up a 15 X 15 foot bed. She has some broccoli, lettuces, herbs, tomatoes and squash in this garden. This bounty will contribute to the healthy lunches which she is committed to providing.


Ada's students are so fortunate to spend their day care years growing food and learning the basics with good friends. Way to go, Ada!

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Establishing Your School Garden

A series of guides to getting your school garden up and growing!


Part Three - Funding & Supporting Your Garden  


It's always a good time to think about funding your school garden.  Whether you've got your garden proposal ready to present to the PTA or school board, and want to have some funding ideas in place to encourage approval, or if you've got your garden up and running and now need to look at longer-term funding, you have several options.  And remember that "funding" does not always have to come in the form of money.  Donated materials, labor, and shared knowledge and information all contribute to building and maintaining your garden.  


The first thing you need to do is have a budget.  Make a list of all materials you will need, whether to build your new garden or maintain your existing one.  Include materials for raised beds, tools (both to build the garden and to work in it), soil, plants, seeds, hoses, and any educational supplements you may need, and find estimates for the costs of these items. 


piggy bankNow to find the support.  First, consider the school community.   Check with your school or school board to see if they have any money to budget for your garden.  Next, reach out to your PTA or parent/teacher organization.  If they have no money to spare, they may be willing to help with fundraisers.  Your fundraisers can range from the usual bake sales, to seedling and plant or vegetable sales once the garden is in full swing.  Have fun and be creative. 

Sherman School in Fairfield held a brick sale, where school families could buy and donate bricks with names or sayings on them, to be used in the actual building of the garden.


Appeal to the parents in the school community as well.  Perhaps there are carpenters or masons or gardeners amongst the parents who would be happy to donate time to build or maintain the garden.  Similarly, there may be business owners who will donate labor or materials for the garden, or items for fundraisers, or monetary donations.   


Solicit the wider business community, again for donations of materials, labor, or money.  Make sure to be in touch with the usual - building supply companies, garden centers or nurseries, hardware stores, etc. - but also contact other businesses as well.  They  may be willing to support or sponsor the garden with monetary support.


Check with local service and community organizations (Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Kiwanis, Jaycees, Rotary, Junior Women's Clubs) who may be willing to offer free labor or other help, and if you have a local garden club, definitely give them a call!  They may not only help with the actual building and maintenance of your garden, but can be a source of information and knowledge as well as helping out with lessons in the garden during class time.  Not sure about a garden club in your area?  Contact the Federated Garden Clubs of CT for more info.  If you don't have a local garden club, contact the CT Master Gardener Association, your county extension office, or local technical high school, or college or university.  Lastly, don't overlook area corporations.  Many corporations support programs in the community, or encourage their employees to get out and volunteer on community projects.  If you have a corporation situated in your area, contact them and see if they can help.


Search for funding and grant opportunities.  There are options out there to fund your garden.  This will be an on-going activity, and may take some time, searching, and creativity, but there is money available.  Remember on-line sources; John Barry Elementary School in Meriden notes that they got funded (twice!) after posting their garden project on DonorsChoose.org.  Be sure to refer to CT NOFA's School Garden Resources Page, where we have a section on funding that is updated regularly.


Good luck and have fun!pennies 


Further reading:


A Wealth of Wisdom at kidsgardening.org

Fundraising ideas at the Rebel Tomato

Tips to Get a School Garden Grant at School Garden Weekly

Budgeting & Funding for Your School Garden at Grow to Learn NYC offers budgeting & supply worksheets


In case you missed them:

Part One:  Getting Organized and Getting Approval, Growing and Learning, February 2012 

Part Two: Building the Garden, Growing and Learning, May 2012


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Saving Seeds - An Educational Resource


columbine seedheadWhile most likely seeds have gotten their fair share of attention in garden-based curriculum, the act of seed -saving may have not.  If you incorporate seed-saving into your curriculum, you are opening up many educational opportunities, as well as extending the learning season in the school garden.


Most people tend to think of gardening as a summer activity, and the harvest, for most fruits and vegetables, does come in summer months when students are not in school.  But there is so much more to a garden than the harvest, especially from an educational standpoint.  By focusing part of the curriculum on seed-saving, students can be kept learning in the garden in fall.  The fall garden becomes not just an plot of dead plants that needs to be cleaned up, but a classroom waiting to be explored.  Seed-saving teaches the concept of cycles, and the students who planted a seed earlier in the year, nurtured the plant, harvested and ate the fruit, can now see the completion - and restart - of the cycle.


Harvesting seeds can be completed in the fall, but the seed-related activities can extend through the winter.  Seeds can be sorted, processed, and packaged in student-designed and -made packets in the winter months.  Data about each type of seed can be collected and recorded.  The seeds saved by the students from the school garden can be studied and discussed on several levels: in terms of history - where a plant originated, and how it traveled from one place to another;  or culture - how certain cultures used certain plants; in terms of language - botanical, scientific, and common names and their meanings and histories can be explored; and obviously, in scientific terms, where the seed can be physically studied.  And every seed has a story; sometimes, it is the story of the plant in general.  Other times, it can be more mysterious - who is Cosmonaut Volkov, or Jimmy Nardello, and why are there vegetables named after them? Why is this pepper called a Scotch Bonnet and that lettuce called Deer Tongue?  How can a tomato lift a mortage - and what exactly does "lifting a mortgage" mean anyway?


A wonderful handbook to help you get started on seed-saving in the school garden is A Handful of Seeds, published by the School Garden Program of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center.  Downloadable for free at their site, it offers great insights on seeds and seed-saving, practical advice for hands-on saving, and many other curriculum tools, including lesson plans, a glossary, charts, curriculum ideas, and suggested articles and books for further reading.


And CT NOFA offers resources to help as well.  We are conducting a seed-saving workshop on Sunday, August 26, 2012, at Comstock, Ferre & Co. in Wethersfield.  Visit our website for further information.   Also, we offer a 109-page handbook, Organic Seed Production and Saving, by Bryan Connolly, available for $12.95.  You can contact the CT NOFA office, or you can order the book directly.



Further reading:


Why Save Seeds? by C.R. Lawn, Fedco Seeds

Thinking About Saving Seeds, with Ken Greene from A Way to Garden 

Beginner's Guide to Seed-Saving from Organic Gardening Magazine

Saving Seed from Real Food & Scandalous Gardening Secrets

Vegetable Seed-Saving Handbook from howtosaveseeds.com


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Bridgeport School Gardens Are Really Growing!
Curiale Students Harvest Their First Crop
Curiale before April 2012
Curiale Garden waiting to be built and planted . April 2012
Last issue we reported on the great new garden built at Curiale School in Bridgeport  in April. (see May's
Growing and Learning, and this story in the Connecticut Post).  This June, students harvested their first crop of lettuce for a school-wide salad day.
Curiale After - June 2012
Curiale students harvest their first crop! June 2012
The students got some help along the way last May, when high school students from Staples High School in Westport stopped by to work in the garden for a day.

Columbus School Gets a Garden
In June, it was Columbus School's turn to get a school garden. Almost 300 volunteers, including students, parents and teachers, with help once again from Green Village Initiative and from Park City Schools and Community Alliance, joined together to build the garden, plant trees, and repair and clean up the school's basketball court.  The Connecticut Post has the story, and scroll down here to enjoy the spirit of the students and volunteers captured in the photos below.
          Columbus School June 2012
Columbus School June 2012   
Columbus School June 2012 

 Columbus School June 2012 

Columbus School June 2012  

Columbus School June 2012 

         Columbus School June  2012 

                               Columbus School June 2012 

 Congratulations and have fun in your new garden!



GVI Signs Lease to Start Community Farm in Bridgeport


Schools are not the only places gardens are sprouting in Bridgeport!  Green Village Initiative recently signed a five-year lease with the city of Bridgeport for a 1.5-acre piece of vacant land that will be developed into an urban farm. Read more about this exciting project on Westport Patch, and check out some plans at GVI's website


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School Garden Workshop at Wilton High School a Success
High School and Green Village Initiative conducted a workshop this past spring at the organic garden at Wilton High.  The workshop, So, You've Got a School Garden.  Now What? covered a wide range of topics, including garden start-up and resources, year-round garden maintenance and care, integrating lessons, and engaging students.  Speakers included WHS teacher Jim Hunter; Annie Farrel, Master Farmer at Millstone Farm in Wilton; and Amy Kalafa, of Two Angry Moms. WHS students got involved as well, conducting a seeding demonstration for participants in the greenhouse.

Didn't make the workshop?  Check out some of the highlights on this 15-minute video.  And, if you are interested in future workshops, contact Amy Kalafa through GVI and let her know.  Some topics being considered are getting started, what to plant and when, maintenance, food safety protocol, and curriculum integration.   

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School Gardens in the Summer
One aspect of managing a school garden is what to do with it in the summer.  After all, school is not in session during the summer, and that is when the garden comes into full production.  How does a school maintain the garden when the students and teachers are not there?
Grist offers some suggestions in Claire Thompson's article No More Trowels, No More Roots: What Happens to School Gardens in Summer?  Read on for some creative and educational options to managing your school garden during the summer months.

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Doing "Thyme" in the Prison Garden
JJIE Photo by DeDe Harris
Juvenile Justice Info. Exchange; Photo by DeDe Harris
A recent article, Young Inmates Doing Thyme in the Prison Garden, published on the website of Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, looks at a program in Georgia, and similar programs elsewhere, which offer youthful offenders a chance to work in the prison garden as part of serving their sentences.  The story, written by Pattie Baker, points out the benefits to these young people, most tellingly a reduced recidivism rate, and touches on the importance of the garden in instilling values - responsibility, ownership, pride, for instance - that some of these youths have never had a chance to learn. Read more about these promising programs in the full article.

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Not Just a School Garden, a "School Bus" Garden! 


Courtesy of Green Urban Lunch Box

If you happen to visit Salt Lake City, you  just might see a school bus driving around town that stands out a bit from the rest.  It's the Green Urban Lunch Box, an old school bus that was transformed into a mobile greenhouse.  The folks who founded the project travel the city to educate children and adults on the benefits of growing food in urban settings. 

The program has also started six gardens in the Salt Lake City area.

For more on this innovative idea (and pictures!) read the article at Inhabitat.com, or check out Green Urban Lunch Box's Facebook page.    

Courtesy of Green Urban Lunch Box







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And the Winner is...


Annie's bunnyCongratulations to the winners of Annie's Homegrown Win A School Garden contest, open to schools who have or who want to implement a school garden.


Raymond School, Franksville, WI.  Raymond School started their garden at the end of the 2010-11 school year and hope to expand the garden with their $1,000 "Digging Deeper" prize.


Portland Children's Museum's Opal School, Portland, OR. As a $1,000 "Digging Deeper" winner, the school plans to expand their existing, five-bed garden to harvest rain water as well as use their own runoff to water the garden.

Lander Elementary, Mayfield, OH. As a $500 "Getting Started" winner, students are looking forward to applying what they've learned in math and science to their school garden.


Elsa England Elementary, Austin, TX. Elsa England is opening this fall and will use their $500 "Getting Started" prize to start a new garden.

You can view the many wonderful entries on Pinterest.  Check them out and see all the good work going on around the country.

Congratulations to the winners, and happy growing in your new or improved gardens!

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Save the Date! - Food Day, October 24, 2012


Food Day logoThis coming October 24th is the second annual Food Day, a day marking a nationwide celebration and a movement toward more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food.  Created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Day is fueled by a diverse coalition of food movement leaders, organizations, and people from all walks of life, and takes place annually to address issues as varied as health and nutrition, hunger, agricultural policy, animal welfare, and farm worker justice. The ultimate goal of Food Day is to strengthen and unify the food movement in order to improve our nation's food policies.


Last year's celebration saw 2,300 events in all 50 states.  Plan to have your students participate this year!  For more information, to find events or host your own, and to find other great resources to celebrate the day, visit Food Day's website or Facebook page, and get involved!


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Lunch Bites Webinar Series

Farm to School Network Lunch Bites
The National Farm to School Network offers a webinar series called Lunch Bites, "designed to be short, but loaded with crisp snippets of information related to Farm to School programs and partnerships".  The webinars are 20-minutes long followed by a question-and-answer period.  Past webinars are recorded for viewing.  For more information, to register, or to make suggestions for topics for future webinars, visit the website.

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What's On Your Plate? 


What's On Your Plate? logoProduced and directed by Catherine Gund, "What's On Your Plate" was filmed over the course of a year, and, according to its website, "follows two eleven-year-old multi-racial city kids as they explore their place in the food chain."   The movie addresses issues all along the food chain,  from questions regarding the origin of their food, how it's cultivated, how many miles it travels from the harvest to plate, how it's prepared, who prepares it, and what is done afterwards with the packaging and leftovers. Visit their website for more information, activities, recipes and more, or to purchase the film or accompanying book.  They also offer a curriculum guide at their site store, and be sure to visit them on Facebook.  


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Recent additions to CT NOFA's SGN Resources Page 


We're always on the lookout for new resources to share with you to aid in the creation, maintaining, and funding of your school garden.  In addition to some of the resources highlighted  above, be sure to check out our School Garden Resources page on a regular basis.  Some of the recent updates to the page include Two Angry Moms new networking site, a follow-up to the wonderful story at Peachtree Charter Middle School in Georgia,  and the Sonoma-County-based School Garden Network


Other new additions include:


Resources for serving school garden produce in the school cafeteria, gathered by Healthy School Environment 


The Ultimate Guide to Your School Garden: 100 Tips, Tools, and Ideas for Learning, from Best Colleges Online


Summer Gardening Tips for School Gardens, from the California School Garden Network


Harvest of the Month - education resources, training materials, monthly newsletter, and more.


And for the school librarians amongst us, we came across this book that might be of some help - A Librarian's Guide to Cultivating an Elementary School Garden.  Read more about this book.



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Upcoming CT NOFA WorkshopsComstock Ferre

CT NOFA sponsors workshops that may be of interest to educators who are either involved in a school garden or who are considering one.  An upcoming workshop will take place in Wethersfield:


Seed Saving
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Comstock, Ferre & Co.
263 Main Street
Wethersfield, CT
For further information on the workshop and registration details, click here, or call the CT NOFA office at 203-888-5146.


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News and Notes
news boy


In June, the Fairfield Board of Education endorsed a plan to promote healthier school meals starting next year.  The plan, to be phased in over the next few years, will reflect new federal guidelines that will include meals with more fruits, vegetables and whole grains on school lunch menus.  Read more in the Connecticut Post.




In May, 3rd-grade students from Pine Grove School in Avon joined with the Community Farm of Simsbury and volunteers from the Avon-Canton Rotary Club to build a handicapped-accessible raised garden bed at the Avon Senior Center. The Hartford Courant has the story.




John Barry Elementary School in Meriden installed a garden last year, starting with $12 and a trowel.  Read their story here, and make sure you check out Part 2 as well.




This summer in New Haven, the United Way has joined up with the New Haven school system to make sure New Haven children have good lunches.  They are utilizing a food truck to drive to spots around the city and hand out free lunches to all kids under 18. Go to ctsummerfood.org, or call 211 for delivery locations, and check out this video for more information on this great program.




This past spring, the Connecticut Outdoor Environmental Educators Association (COEEA) recognized three Connecticut schools for their outstanding accomplishments in integrating the principles of sustainability into their curriculum, campus practices, and community connections.  The schools were Common Ground High School in New Haven, Watkinson School in Hartford, and The Environmental Sciences Magnet School at Mary Hooker School, also in Hartford. Read about the accomplishments of these schools here.  Congratulations!




The California School Garden Network is compiling a list of "One-Bite Lessons" in preparation for in their Garden-Enhanced Nutrition Education (GENE) Workshops.  Their definition of a One-Bite Lesson is an edible activity that doesn't require a kitchen or excessive preparation, and/or a fun and creative way to have kids sample plants right from the garden.  You can see what others have shared, and contribute your own ideas, here.




For over ten years, public schools in Detroit have experimented with using gardening in the lesson plans of individual schools. Now, thanks to federal funding and the support of community groups, the district plans to make garden-based education available to students in 45 schools across the district. Read more.




Food Lab, a program started in Davenport, CA, to teach children hands-on lessons about food and cooking, has been piloting an adaptation of their program in the larger La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District. In both programs, the students actually prepare the food for their entire school. Read more about this inspiring program, and see the students in action!




The school garden program at John Muir High School in Pasadena, CA, is so successful that it is creating jobs and expanding into a mini-farm operation.  Read all about it at School Garden Weekly.




Farm to Table promotes an idea that most of us probably agree with - it's never too early to start children learning in the garden.  Read their article Gardening With  Your Tots for suggestions on safety, crops, tools, and time management.




An article on Food Renegade, School Lunches Made This Child Sick, discusses the quality of school lunches and one child's experience with them.




Fairfield Green Food Guide offers this list of Colleges Who Grow Their Own Food, compiled by OnlineColleges.net.




Public school students in Kentucky will be getting more local, fresh fruits and vegetables in their school lunches, thanks to a collaboration of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Wholesome Wave, Grasshoppers distribution, and private investors.  Read the story at Farm to Table




The Ontario College of Family Physicians recently warned of dangers from pesticides, and recommends that humans reduce their exposure as much as possible.  Their new review of pesticide research shows links between pesticide exposure and harmful neurodevelopmental, respiratory, and reproductive health effects.  The full story can be found here.  



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Grow Somemoney tree bonsai Green for Your Garden



School gardens need green to be green. Check our resources page for some ideas on how to get started on funding your school garden or farm.  Get suggestions for fundraising, learn tips for applying for grants, and find sources for the money to support your project.  Be sure to check back often, as new opportunities are always opening up.


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We want the CT NOFA School Garden Network to be your go-to site for information on starting, maintaining, and growing your school garden.  Please feel free to contact us with anything - questions you need to ask, ideas or suggestions you'd like to share, comments you want to put out to the school garden community, or news you'd like to tell us about.  We can all learn and be inspired by what others are doing, so please share your stories and experiences with us.  We look forward to hearing from you! 




Debbie Semonich


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US School Garden Army cropped

Maginel Wright Barney, 1877-1966







"A garden for every child; a child in every garden."

                              ~ the U.S. School Garden Army




PO Box 164
Stevenson, Connecticut 06491