ct nofa logo
Issue No. 3
May 2012

Growing and Learning 

In This Issue
Welcome to Genevieve's Teaching Garden!
Establishing Your School Garden
Curiale School
West Middle School
New Website Launched
Win a School Garden!
Diggin' In!
Food Revolution Day
Green Bronx Machine
Curriculum Guide for PBS documentary
School-Community Kitchens Recommended
CT NOFA Workshops
Common Ground HS Events
Camp Teachers Needed
News and Notes

Quick Links




On a late April Saturday evening, New Haven's Barnard Environmental Studies Magnet School opened its garden for a tour in connection with a community potluck dinner and a showing of the movie Farmageddon. The event was sponsored by the New Haven Bioregional Group/Transition Greater New Haven and co-sponsored by a dozen food and environmental organizations, including CT NOFA.


Barnard uses the garden as an important educational context for students from pre-K through 8th grade.



The south-facing courtyard provides a warm microclimate, hence there were vegetables almost ready to harvest.


The jury is out on the cinder block beds. They were a donation. On the plus side, they retain heat, provide a good working height for students and keep young feet off the vegetables. On the other side, they seem to wick the water out of the beds, especially in the warm sunny courtyard. In the back, Kel Youngs, Science Instructional Coach, waters the beds. 


















Plans are to use wooden sides for the new beds created in an area liberated of dogwood shrubs.


Read more... 



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Welcome to Genevieve's Teaching Garden!

Thalberg School Garden 1

R.E. Thalberg Elementary School,

Southington, CT


Our outdoor educational classroom, located in an enclosed courtyard, provides all children and staff at R.E. Thalberg School the opportunity to study and appreciate nature. Our mission is to develop an accessible garden to complement our accessible school, and to promote sustainable learning in an outdoor classroom. We are fortunate to have so much support from our community.


The Courtyard garden has blossomed over the past ten years as a result of efforts by staff, students, and their families.  Most recently, and throughout the 2011-2012 school year, our knowledge of gardening has been nourished and cultivated by the Orchard Valley Garden Club of Southington.  They have shared hours of volunteer time offering support via materials, finances, and expertise.  The children love the interaction with the club members.


The guardians of our micro-climate environment are fourth and fifth grade students, along with the private, not-for profit Oak Hill School/Connecticut Institute for the Blind classroom housed within the school.  These  seventy students take turns three times each week, working in the garden during harvest and planting times.  Annuals and perennials shower prolific colors spring through fall.  Vegetables are planted along the perimeter of the garden and will be shared with Southington's food pantry in the fall.  



Over the years we have created an ecosystem that has attracted birds and butterflies. Kindergarten classes release painted ladies. Our butterfly bush attracts monarchs each year. Students have learned how to compost and make better use of our natural resources by learning how to effectively place materials in a 3-Bin Composting System. Students have been encouraged to recognize public safety by installing a solar birdbath, which uses available energy and avoids standing water, which encourage mosquitoes. Our staff encourages students to better use our natural resources and to appreciate the importance of sustainable practices.


Students are encouraged to use the garden surroundings to stimulate creative and descriptive prose and poetry. Our annual event, an "Evening in the Garden" provides families with the opportunity to picnic together while listening to poetry authored by the fourth graders. Math projects include taking measurements for a new storage shed for the garden tools, as well as creating numerous math application problems (lessons in area, perimeter, story problems). The garden challenges and heightens observation and sensory skills. Children and adults alike are awestruck by the unfolding story the garden tells.


During the past winter months, students were treated to projects organized by the Orchard Valley Garden Club. These engaging and instructional lessons included creating holiday centerpieces that were shared throughout the community, and decorating a tree in the courtyard, first with holiday decorations and then with pinecones covered with seeds. In addition, students created Valentine cards and pins to share with friends and loved ones. Early in spring we planted pole bean and bush bean seeds in recycled containers.


We have been most fortunate to be the recipients of several grants, which have helped us to sustain our learning and material needs. These include grants from Activate SouthingtonMaster Gardener, Lowe's Toolbox for Education, and two Southington Education Foundation grants. We have an ongoing relationship with UCONN Master Gardeners and Composters.



"Genevieve's Teaching Garden" is named in honor of our patroness, Mrs. Genevieve Thalberg.


Submitted by Mrs. Linda Bass Reilly, Coordinator & Grade 4 Teacher, R.E. Thalberg Elementary School



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Establishing Your School Garden

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


Part Two - Building the Garden


You've gotten approval to go ahead with your school garden project, and now you are ready to start the actual building and installation of the garden.  Before you pick up a shovel or a hammer, though, there are some things to think about.


First, consider the physical site you have chosen for the garden.  Does it have full sunlight?  Full sun usually means at least 6 hours of direct sun.  If you are planning a vegetable garden, you will want full-sun  exposure; you have more leeway if you are planting a flower garden.  You will need to monitor your site to 

Click photo for more info

see how much sun it gets.  This should be done after March 15th.  You can keep an eye on the site for a day or two and make notes.  You can set up a shadow pole to track the sun.  A shadow pole is any vertical stick or stake, about six feet high, stuck in the ground, which will help you note the movements of the sun.  There are also devices that can be bought that calculate the amount of sun a spot gets.  Keep in mind that exposure changes throughout  the season, and take this into consideration when planning.  Also consider the growth and potential shade of any nearby trees.  Lastly, decide whether you want or need some kind of fencing around the garden.




Make sure to have a water source for your garden.  Ideally, your garden will be near an outdoor spigot.  This is something that should be planned when the school is selecting the site.  If you are not near an outdoor faucet, check with the school to see if a hose can be run, preferably underground to a free-standing spigot set up in the garden.  If not, you may have to have your students run a hose each time they need to water.  You might also consider the use of rain barrels.  There are some safety issues with rain barrels you should review before using them.  Before the garden is constructed is the best time to decide whether you garden will utilize soaker hoses or drip irrigation, or if the students will water by hand.


Plan the style of the garden. Construction of raised beds is an expense worth considering.  With raised beds, maintenance is minimized, accessibility is maximized, and plantings are healthier.  Raised beds can be built from wooden boards,  or cinder blocks, and there are kits available to build them from these and other materials.   




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Curiale School Builds a Garden


Volunteers and community organizations recently gathered at James J. Curiale School in Bridgeport to help revitalize the grounds.  In addition to refurbishing the soccer field and planting cherry trees, they installed two gardens on the school grounds.  Neighborhood residents, students, city employees, and volunteers from groups including Green Village Initiative and Groundwork Bridgeport met last week to do the clean-up and installation. 
One of the gardens will be an Asian garden, reflecting the presence of the Asian population in the neighborhood, and will help supply some of the Asian restaurants in the area.   Groundwork Bridgeport plans to maintain the garden, with help from firefighters at the local firehouse; seniors living at a nearby apartment building are also invited to use the garden.






Read more about the Curiale garden - and see some great photos of the volunteers at work - in the CT Post.  



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And from West Middle School in Hartford...

The Community Farm of Simsbury visited West Middle School in March to give a lesson on growing food organically, and the things that help plants grow.

Lesson activities were tied to common core standards in science, math, and literature. Best of all, it was all hands-on!   







The Community Farm folks returned to West Middle in April, and assisted students in  planting vegetable seeds in their classroom. The hands-on lesson was tied to state standards in science around the life-cycle of plants. 


Students will transplant the seedlings to the Community Farm gardens during a field trip in May.  



Thanks to Timothy Goodwin of the Community Farm of Simsbury for sharing these great photos!



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Two Angry Moms Launches New Site
With the help of their members' input and ideas, Two Angry Moms has built a brand new social networking site. Here are some of its great features:
  • Search for other advocates by zip code  
  • Chat with members live or start a forum discussion  
  • Contribute to a shared calendar to let people know what events are coming up  
  • Share resources like files, media or links with other members  
  • Blog about your progress!  
  • Always stay up-to-date on what others do in your local group and around the world  
  • Watch our movement grow on the member map!  
  • Share your efforts with friends on Facebook and Twitter  
  • Spread the word to anyone, anywhere!

Check it out and start connecting!


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Win a School Garden from Annie's
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Annie's Homegrown, the folks who bring us natural and organic foods approved by the Bunny, is sponsoring a contest to win a school garden.  Several prizes will be awarded in addition to the grand prize, and include cash, supplies, and hands-on training.  There is a category for both new school gardens and existing ones. Be sure to read the fine print, and then enter the contest!  Check out some of the entries here - and be inspired by lots of good work going on around the country!

The deadline for entries is June 30, 2012. Best of luck to all the contestants!

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Diggin' In!
6th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference


The National Farm to School Network hosts the 6th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference: Diggin' In! in Burlington, VT August 2 - 5, 2012.  Registration opens May 7, 2012.

The conference will bring together food service professionals, farmers, educators, policy makers, representatives from government agencies and nonprofits, entrepreneurs, students and others who are breaking down barriers and expanding the impact of Farm to Cafeteria.


There will be skill-building short-courses, field trips to innovative Vermont farms and institutions, a diverse workshop program, and plenty of opportunities to network with inspiring individuals from across the country.


Check out the Conference website for lots more info, including a schedule of events, workshops and field trip information, registration details, scholarship info, travel and lodging, and much more.  


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Food Revolution Day

May 19, 2012 is Food Revolution Day, sponsored by the Jamie Oliver Foundation.  According to the website, the day is a chance for people who love food to come together to share information, talents and resources; to pass on their knowledge and highlight the world's food issues.  Food Revolution Day is open to schools, businesses, chefs, restaurants - anyone who wants to take the steps towards a healthier lifestyle and better education. 


Read more about the who, what, and why of the Day itself, learn more about the Food Revolution, and see how your school can get involved.


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Green Bronx Machine   


This past winter, a teacher by the  name of Steve Ritz came to my attention via a TEDx talk.  (TEDx is a non-profit program designed to give communities, organizations, and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue on many different social issues.)  Mr. Ritz is a teacher in the Bronx who got his students to start growing vegetables, and really branched out in amazing ways.  He gave a short presentation about his school and its Green Bronx Machine, entitled Growing Our Way into a New Economy, at a recent TEDx event.  Watch the video of his presentation and be inspired!

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Curriculum Guide for PBS Documentary Nourish: Food + Community  


Nourish is an educational initiative designed to open a meaningful conversation about food and sustainability, particularly in schools and communities.  Their PBS film,  Nourish: Food + Community, traces our relationship to food from a global perspective to personal action steps. Nourish illustrates how food connects to such issues as biodiversity, climate change, public health, and social justice.


Get the free download of the Nourish Middle School Curriculum Guide, with a Spanish version available as well.  You can also see how educators are using Nourish in the classroom, and take advantage of other downloadable food system tools.


Also available for sale at their website is the  DVD of Nourish: Food + Community, hosted by Cameron Diaz and featuring Michael Pollan, Jamie Oliver, Alice Waters and others, and check out their collection of books, articles, and other short videos on food-related topics.

And while you're there, take a look at their blog for information, inspiration, and perspectives on our food system.

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Center for Ecoliteracy Recommends School-Community Kitchens

School-community kitchens are a major recommendation of the Center for Ecoliteracy's recent Rethinking School Lunch Oakland Feasibility Study.  According to the Center, they are an innovative strategy for sharing resources between schools and neighborhoods to support health, improve academic achievement, enhance community vitality, and promote justice and equity.

Download their new paper, in which CEL program coordinator Jacob I. Wright explains the rationale, roots, and potential of this concept.


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Upcoming CT NOFA Workshops

CT NOFA, along with Common Ground High School,  sponsors workshops that may be of interest to educators who are either involved in a school garden or who are considering one.  The next one will take place in May in New Haven:


Organic Gardening Workshop
Saturday, May 5, 2012
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM


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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Other Goings-On at Common Ground

Speaking of Common Ground High School in New Haven, there are some other events happening which might be of help to you in growing your school garden. Every Saturday through November 24, 2012, the high school hosts its Open Farm Days, from 10:00AM to 2:00PM.  Explore Common Ground's urban, organic farm, help dig and plant in the children's garden, and ask farm staff your backyard gardening and composting questions.  The animal yards are open for visitors to meet chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats, sheep, and pigs. This is a great way to see what can be done and to get ideas fro your own school garden.  Admission is free.


On Saturday, May 19, 2012, visit the Farm Festival and Organic Seedling Sale from 10:00AM to 3:00PM. Common Ground raises a variety of strong, healthy seedlings for planting in your school garden. Choose from heirloom and hybrid tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, broccoli, kale, parsley, basil, cucumbers, eggplant, flowers, squash, beans, lettuce, melons, and more. Seedlings are priced from $1.00 - $4.00.  At the Farm Festival, celebrate community and the beginning of a new growing season. Festivities include tractor-pulled hayrides, music, face-painting, ice cream making, games, and live sheep shearing. Admission to all events is free. 


And for those of you thinking big and looking to expand things in your school garden, there is a workshop on Urban Beekeeping Basics on June 9, 2012, from 10:00AM to noon.  Learn some bee basics, including how to welcome them and how to get started with your own bee hive for honey and improved food production in your own backyard (or schoolyard!).  All ages welcome at this family friendly workshop, $10 per household. RSVP to rholcombe@commongroundct.org.  
Teachers still needed for summer
Lastly, Common Ground is still looking for experienced and energetic teachers for summer 2012. The school is offering six different camps, including a Sprouts camp, an Eco-Explorers camp, and a Farm to Feast Cooking camp, among others, starting in June and running through August. To get to know Common Ground, take a look at this video from last summer, highlighting their summer program.


If you are interested, view the job description for full details, and apply on-line.

If you'd like to do this but don't have the required experience, Common Ground also
offers non-paid internships as well. Check out their internship opportunities page for further information on what's available and how to apply. This can be a great way to gain experience and see how the school farm operates. While most internships are intended for college students, they do accept post-college applicants looking to gain experience in a new field.
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Summer Camp Teachers & Counselors Needed

The Community Farm of Simsbury is seeking teachers and counselors for its farm-based, hands-on summer camp. Sessions run weekly from June 25 - August 10, 2012. Teachers and counselors should be able to commit to all 8 weeks of camp, though we will consider those able to commit to 6 or 7 weeks of camp.


See their website for further information. 


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News and Notes
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Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan announced in April that the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service is now accepting applications for a series of grants - each one to be no more than  $100,000 - to fund programs that bring locally produced foods to school cafeterias. Read more about the program, and  get the details about requirements and deadlines here.




The Edible Schoolyard Project has launched its new website.  The new site gathers and shares the lessons and best practices of school gardens, kitchens and lunch programs worldwide in the hope of supporting new start-up gardens around the globe. Read about it in the New York Times, or go to the CT NOFA School Resource Page to get the link to this and many other great resources.  



Maple Street School in Vernon, CT is in the process of starting a community garden.  Visit their website to learn more about their efforts.


The Darien Board of Education unanimously approved the installation of a garden at Hindley Elementary School.  This will be the second school garden in the town.   Read about it here.




This month, the school garden at Melissa Jones Elementary School in Guilford will be presented with a plaque designating their qualifying status for the Audubon Society At Home and Schools Program. Check out their website to see the great work the school is doing.  Congratulations!




John Pettibone Elementary School in New Milford has received a Toolbox for Education grant from Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation.  The grant will be used for construction of a greenhouse and and improvements to their vegetable garden.  The NewsTimes has the story.




Second-graders at Stamford's Springdale Elementary School participated in the Stamford Garden Club's second annual Lettuce Challenge ContestStudents planted their lettuce seeds and will tend and observe their plants as they vie to grow the best lettuce. Find out more in the Stamford Advocate.




Common Ground High School in New Haven recently expanded its Kids Unplugged and West Rock Rangers after-school programs this spring with help from some grants.  Read the story here.




An eighth-grade student at Torrington Middle School recently initiated a program to grow food for hungry kids in his community. Read about his efforts in the Register Citizen.




The University of Minnesota Extension has put out a 30-minute documentary titled Farm to School; Growing Our FutureThis 30-minute documentary explores the economic advantages and remaining challenges for businesses, farms, schools and communities as they work together to improve our children's health and education. Learn more about the documentary and the Farm to School work of the University of Minnesota.   




The National Farm to School Network has recently expanded to include preschools! Check out the new Farm to Preschool website for more information. 



FoodCorps gathered in Washington, D.C. in April to celebrate Global Youth Service Day and National Volunteer Week.  Fifty service members teamed up with local volunteers to build and plant gardens in several D.C. schools.  You can see photos from their projects on Facebook.




News about school gardens is getting around!  A story about Louisiana school gardens appeared in a Pennsylvania newspaper, and now we are sharing it with our Connecticut readers!  Read how Lafayette schools use gardens to boost learning. 




Students from North Carolina, along with students from Iowa and Pennsylvania and a Girl Scout troop from New York, took a trip to Washington in March to visit with First Lady Michelle Obama and help plant the White House garden. The Connecticut Post has the story.




An article appeared recently in BeyondChron, an on-line San Francisco daily, entitled Should Big Food Fund School Meal Studies? The article raises some issues on giant food corporations funding studies as well as giving grants for projects including school gardens.




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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.


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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