The Garden at Oswegatchie School is a sustainable organic garden where children get a hands on experience learning where their food comes from while developing an appreciation and respect for nature. The Garden will be a learning center to teach gardening as well as incorporating art, music, literature, math and science. It is a place where children are encouraged to join in and participate in the process of creating, developing and maintaining the garden!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Involve Me and I Learn

Excitement is growing along with the sprouts. Two more staff kits were ordered. Thank you Ms. Messina and Mrs. Houlihan! 

This week Mrs. DeLea's class brainstormed what plants need to grow and thrive.They weren't very far off. It made me smile to see that they decided plants need love and worms. Both very important, but not the point of the exercise. :) 

They also got to plant their seeds. We can't thank you enough Peaceful Valley Farm.

I am thrilled to report that Ms. Edward's class is made up of green thumbs! They have been taking such good care of the plants that this week they were ready to be "blocked up". 

Thyme and cucumbers ready for bigger blocks.

Ms. Edwards demonstrating how to tuck the soil blocks into the bigger ones.

Gently easing the thyme apart getting it ready for transplant.

Transplanting the cucumbers.

It is  very exciting to see the children involved in every aspect of this garden. There is almost a buzz in the air as I walk down the halls and hear them talking about their seeds sprouting and the garden project.The next step is for the children to build the planter boxes. Rob custom designed the boxes as  kits for the children to put  together themselves like Lincoln Logs. The excitement on the kid's faces when they hear they get to do the actually building is priceless. Our philosophy is if the children are involved every step of the way, they will take ownership of the project and get the best learning experience from it. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn."
 The date for that to happen is May 4th. Blog post to follow.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Oswegatchie Staff and Students are the Best!

When I asked for teacher volunteers go grow seeds for the Oswegatchie garden, I figured a handful of them would be willing to help out. I am thrilled to say thirteen classroom teachers, our Basic Skills Coordinator, and our School Secretary all volunteered to use the kits Rob and I put together. That is more than 50% participation from the teachers and we couldn't be more pleased!

Seed Starting Kits lined up ready to distribute.

Each kit contains everything needed to successfully start herb, vegetable or flower seedlings including teacher and student directions. The children seem willing and eager to help launch this exciting project and are asking thoughtful questions about gardening. Part of our vision for this project is to get children excited about growing healthy, organic, sustainable food and being able to participate in every phase of the project. 

Mrs. Concascia's class exploring the seeds before planting them.

Many hands make light work.

I'd like to extend a heart-felt thank you to the children in the classes of Mrs. DeLea, Ms. Edwards, Ms. Campbell, Ms. McDonald, Ms. Fleming, Mrs. Concascia, Mrs. Venditti, Mrs. Saucier, Mrs. Trott, Mrs. Bentley, Mrs. Quiles-Glover, Mrs. Radack, and Mrs. Haywood-Leal. An extra special shout out to our School Secretary Mrs. Silva and Basic Skill Coordinator Ms. Bouchard who are starting seedlings for us as well. You all are the most important part of this garden project!

One of the reasons for this blog is to keep you informed on our vision and goal of this garden project. For us the scope is so massive we would overwhelm you (and ourselves) to put it out there all at once. Just as a garden takes time to grow and flourish, so does this project and blog. We will give you snippets of this vision as they crystallize and as time allows. So.....

Growing up without a lot of money, our families (mine and Rob's) relied on gardens to supplement our family food budgets. My mother and Rob's grandmother would can and freeze vegetables as well as make homemade jams and jellies. There was something so sublime about cracking open a jar of homemade strawberry jam in the middle of winter and savoring the summer's sweetness. That would really warm up those long, cold winter days! From a young age Rob was "given" a plot of raspberry plants. He was responsible for tending and harvesting them. Once he had a crop ready he would take them to his local corner store and sell them to the owner to be re-sold in the store.   Eating and preparing whole, unprocessed food has become a lost art. In our busy society people don't always have the time to grow, harvest, and prepare what our children's growing bodies need. Our "fast food" nation has contributed to the poor health of our society. In this garden undertaking we'd like to teach families that it doesn't take a lot of money or time to supplement our kid's diets with fresh, organic, nutrient dense foods. Even if you only have space for a potted plant on your apartment's windowsill, you can still enjoy a multitude of fresh veggies and herbs. Once families learn how to grow the food we will be holding classes on how to prepare all those yummy jewels they harvest. The ideas for learning opportunities are endless with a school garden and eventually we envision them all coming to fruition. I hope you will all join us in the growth process.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The seed is sprouting!

I love my job! I love going to work everyday and collaborating with warm, intelligent, creative people. Everyday I learn something new about  my co-workers that makes me proud to be part of such an amazing team. I am always touched by the beauty of so many of the souls I get to spend time with everyday. Today I was brought to tears (of joy) by our latest contribution to the school garden.

A while back I asked Michelle Messina if she would mind painting a sign for our school garden. Chelle is an accomplished jewelry designer, painter, and entrepreneur. One of her soulful paintings hangs in the main office here at Oswegatchie and most recently she was commissioned to paint a wall at Zen and Now in Niantic, CT. I was thrilled when she agreed to do our sign!

I told her of our plans for the garden to be a place where children (and adults too) could grow healthy bodies, minds, and imaginations. I see our garden as a place where a science lesson is taught side by side with an art lesson. I envision having story time surrounded by colorful blooms that attract butterflies and humming birds. I one day hope to have a group of children sell cut flowers and produce at the local farmers market to learn about marketing, customer service and finance. I dream of the garden being an inspirational place where children are inspired  to  write stories and poems. I pray the garden entices the myriad of talent from within our community of amazing families to share their talents and gifts. My greatest hope is for children who have never had a chance to play in the dirt come to the garden  and realize they love it and carry that new found love with them when they leave Oswegatchie and start gardens of their own. There is something so soothing and soul filling about sticking your hands in the warm dirt. Hope can be found in a garden. Patience is learned in a garden. Joy can be found in a garden. That is what I would like for all the children at Oswegatchie to have.

I seem to have taken the scenic route to get here but what I meant to say in this post is: the sign is done and it is gorgeous! Chelle captured the spirit of what we would like our garden to be. I can't thank her enough for such a phenomenal contribution!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Garden Layout!

Here is our layout for our the school garden,
as they say start small but dream big!

We are planning on creating it in in several phases over time depending on availability of funds.

It would be nice to use the garden this school year so we are planning on breaking ground soon!

The project outline is as follows: 

Phase 1:

Build a fenced in garden area with eight raised planting beds and a center flower bed.

Phase 2:

Add an additional eight raised planting beds and build a pergola over the center flower garden.

Phase 3:

Build a pergola (teaching area), shed, greenhouse and construct a sitting area with tables and chairs.

Phase 4:

Add a fenced in raspberry and blueberry patch.

Phase 5:

Create a flower garden / story telling area.

We would like to get the fenced area and raised planting beds constructed by the beginning of May.
The children will be starting seedlings in the classroom, which can then be planted in the beds or used for a seedling sale.

My wife and I, as well as others, will be working on the construction and care of the garden through the summer and hopefully when the children return in August we will have quite a bit more completed. If all goes well we should have some vegetables to harvest and the cold-frames (mini-greenhouse) built for starting a winter garden!

~Rob & Cynthia~

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Welcome to The Garden at Oswegatchie School!

Welcome to The Garden at Oswegatchie School!

 We invite you to follow along on our journey as we create a garden at our school. 
This project has been a dream of ours for a very long time and now that we have the approval to move forward we are jumping in with both feet! Our plan for this garden is for it to be an oasis where children and adults can nourish their bodies, minds, spirits and imaginations! We have some very exciting and innovative plans drawn up and and are excited to share them with the public. If all goes well we will begin ground breaking soon with the first plantings going in by Mother's Day.

The proposed location has been measured and the garden layout has been drawn up.

We received a generous donation of ORGANIC seeds from Peaceful Valley Farms and when break is over we will begin distributing "kits" to teachers so every student can take part in starting a seedling to go in to the garden.

Kits include mini greenhouse, soil blocks, seed packets, plant mister and instructions.

Teachers can choose from a wide variety of organic vegetables and herbs.