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Issue No. 5
November 2012

Growing and Learning 

In This Issue
Shelton Intermediate School
Reservoir Community Farm
Winter Sowing
Common Ground & GVI Team Up!
Reality Check
PLT Educator Workshop
Manchester Edible Schoolyards Workshop
Greening the School Conference
Healthier School Food Webinar
Juvenile Hall Garden
Annie's Offers Grants
Student Journalism Award
Rethink School Lunch
Packing a Safe Lunch
News and Notes

Quick Links




October is Food Month and Farm to School Month, so naturally there were lots of activities in Connecticut schools and colleges. I got to sample of few of them.


New Haven Food Summit

On October 19, New Haven City Hall was the site of the New Haven Food Summit for the release of the New Haven Food Action Plan. The Plan's goals are to


* increase access to healthy food for all people in New Haven,

* strengthen New Haven's local food economy and

* encourage healthy food choices through education and marketing efforts.


Strategies for the third goal include integrating food system and nutrition education into comprehensive health education curricula in all grades for all students and establishing school garden programs or partnerships in all New Haven Public Schools. (See the article about the School Garden Resource Center at Common Ground High School below.) Will Allen of Growing Power provided a keynote talk after a delicious lunch that was prepared by the Summit's attendees, including many students, under the guidance of local chefs.  


Southern Connecticut State University

The next Monday, I met with three teachers at Southern Connecticut State University to talk about their food production work on campus and efforts to encourage the growing of more hops in Connecticut. They have a student garden and an orchard. They are planning a vineyard and perhaps plantings of hops on part of the seven acres they'd like to develop for food production. There may be a permaculture class next summer to help design those seven acres.

Read more.... 



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 Shelton Intermediate School Builds a Garden


SIS garden ribbon cuttingThe Shelton Intermediate School (SIS) Community garden is in its early stages.  The official ribbon cutting took place on October 10th, but the garden got its start last April during school vacation, when the first five raised beds were built.  Students then spent the next couple of weeks placing, leveling, and filling the beds with garden soil.  The first tomato plants were transplanted from seeds grown in the classroom in late May. 


Over the summer, with the help of SIS faculty and community, 300 feet of split rail fence was installed for two purposes.  It will hopefully keep out any animals, and it is also aesthetically pleasing.  Two smaller beds were planted on the fence line to accommodate climbing vegetables.

SIS garden Just a few weeks ago, on October 1st, the school began the SIS Composting Program.  The goal for this program is to collect all compostable food waste, store it in compost bins that have been built on site by students, and then utilize the finished compost in the raised beds.  The entire school community including students, staff, and cafeteria workers will participate in the daily collecting of food waste through learned waste reduction techniques.



The SIS Garden Club will install an unheated hoop house over five raised beds this fall so that growing can continue throughout the winter months with cool season vegetable varieties.  The garden club will be responsible for weekly maintenance of the garden as well as decision making on crop rotations, harvesting times, planting dates, etc. 

SIS garden




The ultimate vision for the garden is to have approximately 30 raised beds that can be parceled out to individual teachers as desired for unique lessons / experiments.  The remaining beds will be dedicated to growing vegetables by the garden club for harvest and use in the school cafeteria as well as for sale at an on-site vegetable stand.  







SIS garden   

 SIS garden





















 SIS garden



You can read more about the SIS garden at The Huntington Herald and The New Haven Register. For even more information on this exciting garden project, visit the SIS Communitiy Garden website.  While you're there, be sure to check out the fabulous video too, where you can learn about the development of the garden and hear the impressive goals and dreams for the SIS garden.  Best of luck to the Shelton students with their wonderful new endeavor!


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Reservoir Community Farm Breaks Ground


Reservoir Community FarmGreen Village Initiative broke ground on the Reservoir Community Farm in Bridgeport on October 20th. GVI has leased 1.7 acres from the City of Bridgeport for the construction of an urban farm. The property is located at 1469 Reservoir Avenue in the northern section of Bridgeport. This property is located in one of the worst food deserts in the county.

GVI is in the process of transforming the site into a community farm which will feature over 100 32'X4' raised beds, a greenhouse to extend production and grow starter plants for all of our school gardens, and an 'urban shed' which will serve as an office, workshop, classroom and food prep/storage area. All food grown onsite will help feed the surrounding community.  
GVI Reservoir Community Farm
Reservoir Community Farm

GVI will invest in infrastructure, hire a town farmer, and create a farm 'hub' that will support the neighborhood and all 36 edible school gardens that GVI is building at schools throughout Bridgeport.



GVI Reservoir Community Farm

GVI Reservoir Community Farms

GVI Reservoir Community Farm

GVI Reservoir Community Farm

Congratulations on a great start!

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Winter Sowing

Seed-starting in the classroom - without a greenhouse


While not widely-known in most gardening circles, winter sowing is a way of seed-starting outdoors in winter that has quite the cult following, for many reasons. Some of those reasons include ease of sowing, use of recycled materials, reduced loss of seedlings due to damping-off, no need for fancy equipment, playing in the dirt in the middle of winter, the absence of seed flats placed precariously on endtables near the window, hovering over a beige carpet, waiting to be knocked over by a rambunctious child or two...


Okay, that last one was the reason that sold me personally on trying this method. The great results I had that first year were what keeps me at it ten years later. I would never bother to start another seed any other way. As I was contemplating the upcoming winter-sowing season, and thinking about what I would grow this year, I realized that this method could be adapted for use in the classroom.


So just what is winter sowing? It is a method of sowing seeds in containers, which are then placed outside in winter. Yes, outside. The containers act as miniature greenhouses, protecting the seed from adverse weather, from birds and other critters, and from being washed away; and while the container, by virtue of being covered, affords temperatures a bit warmer than outside for the seed to germinate, the resulting seedlings are hardier than indoor-started seedlings, and the problem of damping off is negated. Additionally, there is no need to harden off the seedlings, as they are completely acclimated to the outdoors. (This was yet another selling point for me, as I've lost I don't know how many seedlings because I would forget to bring them back inside at night!)


The winter sowing season officially starts on the winter solstice, and many gardeners will plant something symbolic on this day. The great thing is, winter sowing can be done any time from December through April or even May (which would technically make it spring sowing, but the method is the same!) 


Before I get into details, let me add that the method I'll be describing was developed by Trudi Davidoff, who maintains a website, WinterSown.org. She was also instrumental in getting a Winter Sowing forum on GardenWeb.com. Both of these sites offer a wealth of information, and each provides a place to ask questions and discuss variations on the method, as well as thorough FAQs. Be sure to visit either site if you have further questions.


 Read more.... how-to, photos, tips for successful winter sowing 


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Common Ground & Green Villiage Initiative Team Up!


Common Ground High School, Urban Farm, and Environmental Education Center has joined with Green Village Initiative to launch the School Garden Resource Center. According to Common Ground, this initiative comes as a response to countless inquiries from schools who want support in building educational vegetable gardens and sustaining them as learning laboratories for students and school communities. 
They continue: " Over recent years, the need for all-inclusive school garden support in our community has significantly increased and this year we are fortunate to be able to launch the School Garden Resource Center through generous support from the Green Villiage Initiative, Newman's Own Foundation, and other generous donors... In the longer term, we are striving to build a network of those committed to building and sustaining edible school gardens.  We hope to be able to support gardens all over CT that are deeply integrated into school communities and curricula - leading ultimately to a garden in every school in the state!"


For more information, visit the School Garden Resource Center.



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Reality Check - School Gardens Are a Lot of Work


Lincoln School Urban Oaks Allied World
Students work in the Lincoln School garden 

If you are reading this newsletter, you probably agree with the idea that school gardens can be a wonderful and effective educational tool.  You probably would also agree that connecting children to our food system, and making them aware of where their food comes from and how food production fits into nature's cycles are additional benefits of having a garden on school grounds.


However, the reality is that a school garden entails a lot of work.  Many school gardens are started as the result of a handful of teachers and administrators and/or parents who are passionate in getting the garden off the ground.  Then the everyday work of maintaining the garden starts, and without enough help, burnout can set in.  


An interesting opinion on the difficulties and rewards of maintaining a school garden is offered in Behind the White House Garden Triumph, School Gardens Desperate for Help.  Of particular note is the reference the author makes to then-pending legislation in Washington D.C. which would "require the city's schools to create a garden program for the first time, to provide training, planning and technical assistance for existing gardens as well as new ones."  The Healthy Schools Act passed in May of 2010, and perhaps can offer ideas for action on a local level to help maintain and create successful school gardens in your community. 


Another option some schools are turning to is paid professional help. For example, The Los Angeles Times wrote about schools in that area calling in the pros to help maintain their gardens.  Obviously the first thought that comes to mind with this option is budget restraints.  Certainly the financial aspect of this route would need to be carefully considered, but some schools have decided that this is the way to go.


It is important to try to get regular, reliable help for your garden.  Ideally, this issue will be handled in the planning stages, but in the excitement of building those first raised beds and turning that first bit of soil, the requirements of the day-to-day work of a garden can be overlooked.  But it's never too late to find help.  Assistance can be from other teachers, parents and student volunteers, or community groups. The key can lie in just making the need known; many people may be willing to help if they know help is needed! Let your school community and the wider community know your garden needs support - you can contact parents, get student groups involved, post flyers in the school and around town, post to community boards, send emails to community groups - and try to set a regular schedule of helpers for the season.   Keep in mind summer maintenance as well (see the last issue of Growing and Learning for more on summer management).    


Don't let the work of the garden get you down!  With some planning, some community outreach, and with the help of dedicated volunteers, the work of the garden can be shared, the many priceless benefits can be realized, and your school garden can be successful. 


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Project Learning Tree Educator Workshop
Children's Literature and Nature

CT Forest & Park Association Attention K-5th grade educators! Children's natural affinity for animals and nature provides a great way to enhance their reading, comprehension, communication, and other language arts proficiencies.  The Connecticut Forest and Park Association in Rockfall, CT will host Project Learning Tree's Children's Literature and Nature Workshkop on Tuesday, Novenber 6, 2012, from 9:00AM to 3:00PM, at the CFPA's headquarters at 16 Meriden Road.  The workshop is open to K-5th grade educators, and the cost is $40.


Attend this workshop to learn ways to engage your young students in books and natural history that help set them on the path to become lifelong readers. Dress comfortably for indoor and outdoor activities, and bring a copy of your favorite children's nature book and lunch/drink.
Project Learning Tree

For more information, visit CFPA's webpage.


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Edible Schoolyards Workshop - Manchester Community College

Manchester Community College is the site of an upcoming class for educators and others interested in starting a school garden program.  The class will be led by Bettylou Sandy, owner of Bettylou's Gardening and a NOFA Accredited Organic Land Care Professional, and will cover the general concept for starting a community garden in public, private, and home schools; details of the curriculum and its application; and resources for further assistance.

The class, Course Number (CR#) 31848, takes place on Tuesday, November 13, 2012, from 6PM - 9PM.  Cost is $35, and can be paid in cash, check, money order or by credit card (MasterCard, Visa, or Discover Card). Registration can be done several ways:  phone in your registration at 860-512-3232 between 8:30AM and 4:30PM; register in person at the Registrar's office in the Lowe Building; returning/current students can register on-line (my.commnet.edu); fax your completed registration form to 860-512-3221 (24 hours); or mail your completed registration form and full payment to:

Continuing Education Registration, MS #13
Manchester Community College
Great Path
P.O. Box 1046
Manchester, CT 06045-1046

For further registration information and registration form, click here.

Educators, administrators, parents and gardeners are all welcome!

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Massachusetts Greening the School Conference
Mass Ag in the Classroom


Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom is sponsoring a conference for educators on Saturday November 10th, at the Clay Science Conference Center of the Dexter and Southfield Schools in Brookline, Massachusetts.


The theme of the fall conference will be Greening the School. Workshops will focus on composting and healthy soils; gardening at the school; taking the garden into the classroom; natural resource conservation, and nutrition & local foods. Workshop sessions with multiple workshop choices will be held throughout the day from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. You can also tour the solar panels, wind turbine and planetarium at Clay Center.


Don't miss this day of discussion, interaction and opportunities for exploring new ideas for your classroom. The $50 fee includes all workshops; workshop materials; breakfast snack; lunch. Registration on the day of the Conference is $55 (subject to space availability.)  


Registration forms can be printed out to return by mail; credit cards are not accepted.  However, you can email Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom at massaginclassroom@earthlink.net to register and hold a spot in your choice of workshop while your form and payment are in the mail.  For those making a last minute decision, you can even contact them by email to register and then pay at the door. Certificates can be given to Connecticut teachers to vouch for participation which can be used toward any applicable CT professional development credits.  For more information on workshops, schedules, speakers, directions and more, visit their website.   

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Healthier School Food Culture Webinar   


Action for Healthy Kids Action for Healthy Kids is offering a webinar on How to Create a Healthier School Food Culture, as part of their AFHK Parent Leadership Series. The school food culture goes way beyond the cafeteria.  Children need to learn how to make healthy choices from the minute they walk in the school's front door to the minute they leave at the end of the school day - and beyond.  This webinar will cover the benefits of a healthy school food culture and provide project ideas and resources for:  


 Healthy fundraisers
 Healthy birthdays, celebrations & family events
 Healthy snacks
 Non-food rewards
 Nutrition education & promotion
 Concessions and competitive foods (vending, school stores, a la carte)
For interested parents and community members.  


The webinar takes place December 11, 2012, at 2:00PM.  Registration is available on their webpage. Can't make the live session? The webinar will be recorded and archived for those unable to attend. 


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A Garden Grows in Juvenile Hall
Alice Tebo Center for Ecoliteracy
Photo from Alice Tebo & Center for Ecoliteracy

In our last issue, we highlighted an article that discussed the use of gardens in juvenile justice programs.  Following up on that story, here is another look at this promising trend.  The Center for Ecoliteracy published A Garden Grows in Juvenile Hall, by Alice Tebo, which describes a new program in San Francisco, which gives female youthful offenders a chance to work in a garden installed on the grounds.  Read the article to learn about the encouraging results of this and similar programs.

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Annie's Offers Grants for School Gardens


Annie's bunny

Annie's offers grants to school gardens that connect children directly to real food. These funds can be used to buy gardening tools, seeds or other needed supplies. For more information and to see past grant winners, click here.  If you would like to apply, you can do so on-line

Be sure to read the guidelines on the form. The deadline for application is December 15, 2012.

Annie's also offers Sustainable Agriculture Scholarships to college graduate and undergraduate students.  Read here for more information.

Need a bit of inspiration? Visit Annie's Pinterest page showcasing last year's entries in their Win A School Garden Contest,  and see all the good work going on in schools around the country.

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Earth Day Network Launches Annual Student Journalism Award


Earth Day NetworkThis past month, to coincide with National School Lunch week (October 15-19) Earth Day Network launched the first annual Healthy and Sustainable School Food Journalism Award.  This competition was designed to bring the facts about school food to entire school communties in the students'  own words.


Articles submitted for consideration, which will be judged by author and food activist Michael Pollan, must be about the need for healthy and sustainable school food, and must have been published in a school newspaper. 


The competition is open to U.S. high school students ages 13 to 18.  For  more information, rules, submission form, and to see the prizes, visit Earth Day Network's webpage.



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Ten Ways to Rethink School Lunch

The Center for Ecoliteracy, a foundation which supports and advances education for sustainable living, has released 10 Things You Can Do To Rethink School Lunch.  The list contains ways you can help your local school district take steps to improve your children's meal programs.  In addition to the list of suggestions, they offer a downloadable Rethinking School Lunch Guide, as well as other resources to help you help your school.


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Packing a Safe School Lunch


With school back in full swing, the USDA offers reminders to parents on how to pack a safe school lunch. Some of the tips, found in this article at Food Safety News, include using a cold source in lunch boxes and discarding foods containing meat which have been left out at room temperature for more than two hours.
The points in the article were based on real questions the USDA received at their Meat and Poultry Hotline
(1-800-MPHotline or 1-800-674-6854).  Consumers can also visit www.AskKaren.gov to find answers to over 1,300 food safety questions or chat live with a representative.  For further information and to see the USDA's original press release, read more here.

On a related note, this brief article reiterates the importance of safe school lunches, and includes a listing of some tested and recommended lunch boxes to help you in keeping your child's lunch safe.

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News and Notes
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Learning Community Day School in Westport has been awarded an educational grant from the Captain Planet Foundation. Based on the cartoon character, the Captain Planet Foundation is an international environmental education foundation for youth. The school plans to use the grant of $890 to build a native plants and herbs garden on school grounds. Read more in the Westport News.




Two high School students from Higganum and Ivoryton have been selected to receive 2012 Youth Environmental Leadership awards from The Rockfall Foundation of Middlesex County.   Read here to learn more about the accomplishments of these students, and congratulations to them both!   




Bob Halstead, founder of Bridgeport Urban Gardens, recently had an article published on the blog of NeighborWorks America.  Titled How to Create a Community Garden, the article gives concrete steps and sound information to get a community garden project started successfully.  




In Framingham, MA, Framingham High School has installed a garden in their central courtyard.  Learn more about their project here.   Also in Massachusetts, Center School in Hopkinton started their school garden last spring, with help from the community.  Their story can be found here.  




William H. Ross Elementary School and Eugen A. Tighe Middle School in Margate, NJ are the winners of the inaugural New Jersey Farm to School School Garden of the Year Award.  The garden, located on the grounds of the middle school, is used by students of both schools, and has been in existence for six years.  Congratulations!  Read more about the garden and see photos here




Lisa and Steven Schnell, parents of students at Kutztown Elementary School in Kutztown, PA, were recently presented with the borough's Environmental Stewardship Award, recognizing them for their leadership on the KES School Garden, a space designed to teach students about plants and gardening.  Learn more about their good work and see photos of the garden at the Berks-Mont News.  




NYC Grow to Learn offers a short video on starting a school garden.  After viewing the video, be sure to check out the link to their website for some great resources. 




California governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill allowing schools to sell their garden produce and reinvest the funds into their gardens.  It is hoped this bill will help protect school garden programs from budget cuts.  Read more here




The Community School in South Tamworth, NH, situated on the old Perkins Family Farm, has always integrated wildlife, agriculture, and education.  The Community School Farm, now in the 16th CSA season, and with four acres in cultivation, offers a hands-on experience for students.  Learn more about the farm on their webpage




The school garden scene in Alaska is really hopping!  In Eagle River, students in the Eagle River Elementary Optional Education program are busy in their school garden.  And in Juneau, students at Harborview Elementary had their first Harvest Fair, helping to showcase their school garden.  




From Iowa comes the story of Northwest Junior High School in Coralville, where students helped create and maintain the garden on school grounds, and recently attended their first farmers market as vendors.  Read about how this garden got off the ground in The Gazette.




In Virginia, The City Schoolyard Garden has expanded its school garden program in Charlottesville, allowing more students and teachers to participate in garden-based education.  Read more here, and be sure to go to City Schoolyard Garden's webpage for more information on the organization and its work. 




Musician Cee Lo Green and his sister Shedonna Alexander have co-founded the Greenhouse Foundation in Atlanta, a nonprofit organization that will bring a "green education" to underserved school districts.  Read more about their endeavor here.  




 Monroe Catholic Elementary School in Monroe, MI started up a school garden last spring, with students getting their hands dirty for the first time this fall.  For the story, photos, and even a short video see this article.   



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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