Creating Gardening Partnerships!
A little over nineteen months ago, the Education Department at Reeves-Reed Arboretum received a call from a parent at Franklin Elementary School. The Parent's inquiry was simple, her vision far-reaching. The parent wanted a way to improve the food and nutrition offered at Franklin School. Her goal was to introduce the children to healthier eating through gardening. She had the vision, but not the knowledge of how to start a school garden. She asked if Reeves-Reed Arboretum would be willing to share their expertise, and assist Franklin with starting a vegetable garden. The timing of her request was fortuitous, since the Arboretum sought to collaborate with a school, in order to provide children with a connection to nature, through organic vegetable gardening.
Fast forward to today...Reeves-Reed Arboretum has created a successful collaboration with Franklin Elementary School and in the process, developed a reproducible gardening pilot program. The initial program took place on Monday, March 26, 2018 and included a visit to the Arboretum, by a small contingent of 10 individuals, made up of, 5th grade teachers, and 5th grade parent volunteers. The attendees participated in a three and a half hour training workshop; a tour of the Arboretum grounds; and a light lunch.
On a separate day in April, the entire 5th grade student body (approximately 80 students), with teachers and parent chaperones, visited the Arboretum for Square Foot Gardening training. While at the Arboretum the students spent time in the Roehm Greenhouse, starting plants from seeds. A few weeks later the seedlings were transplanted into the School's new Square Foot Garden beds.
As Reeves-Reed Arboretum's resident expert in Square Foot Gardening, I was charged with developing this School Garden Pilot program and responsible for training, teachers, parent volunteers, and students. Over a period of eight weeks, I worked side by side with students, teachers, and parents, providing them with instructions in organic vegetable gardening, using the Square Foot Gardening method.
The gardening program at Franklin School culminated with of a visit by a chef, from a local Summit restaurant. The chef met with the students in the garden, to explain farm to table, seasonal cooking, and the accompanying health benefits. The students harvested fresh lettuce greens, swiss chard, spinach, pok choi, radishes, and edible flowers from the garden, and were shown how to prepare a salad with a simple vinaigrette. The salad was enjoyed by all!
For Franklin School, this event marked the successful end of their first season of gardening. For Reeves-Reed Arboretum it marks the beginning of a new and exciting journey into creating gardening partnerships.