AAPS School Garden Workshop helps gardeners network, share resources

Susan Baker's life science class works in the garden April 20.
A life science class works in Tappan’s garden April 24, 2012.

By Tara Cavanaugh 

Calling all green thumbs! If you’re a volunteer at one of the school gardens, or you’d like to start one, the School Garden Workshop has assembled some networking and resource opportunities for you.

Held on March 4, the first-ever AAPS School Garden Workshop was organized by the AAPS Farm to School Collaborative. The event, which also provided a farm fresh vegetarian dinner, gathered representatives from 13 school gardens along with a variety of local vendors.

“One of the main points of this was to connect people, help them network with each other and learn from each other –– people who are passionate about this issue but are in schools across town from each other and have never met,” said Rec&Ed Director Jenna Bacolor.

Topics discussed included food safety, composting, pest control, watering, summer coordination and other challenges and best practices. King teacher Neha Shah discussed curriculum connections, Burns Park teacher Emily Hastie talked about scavenger hunts as garden tours, and Open teacher Aina Bernier discussed how teach the scientific method through the garden.

The presentations and resources are being compiled on a website, https://sites.google.com/site/a2schoolgardennetwork/, created by parent Lynda Norton.

Vendors gathered at the workshop to show their support of school gardens: Downtown Home & Garden, Jack’s Hardware, Lowes (Carpenter location), Home Depot (Carpenter location), Project Healthy Schools, Ann Arbor Farmers Market, Stadium Hardware, Project Grow, Starr Valley Farms and Chartwells.

The Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market was instrumental in putting together the workshop, Bacolor noted. Market Manager Sarah Dewitt was one of the main coordinators and she hopes to encourage more teachers to bring their students to the market.

Overall, the School Garden Workshop was a successful start to creating a gardening network in the district.

“Each school is different, each community is different, so is the volunteer base and funding,” said Norton, who volunteers at the gardens at Burns Park Elementary and Tappan Middle School.

School gardens provide curriculum links in every subject and every grade, from biology to writing to math, Norton added. Many school gardens even provide seating for class activities.

“It’s so rewarding to work with the kids,” Norton said. “It’s amazing what they want to do, what they can do and what they get out of it.”

Interested in starting a garden and have some questions? Contact Lynda Norton at llnorton@okno.com. 

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1 Comment

  1. This is a wonderful idea! It gives the students a sense of accomplishment, as well as, compassion for others and teaches them that it truly takes a village to raise our families. Together, we can do anything but separately, life is a struggle! This opportunity gives our young teens a chance to learn how to grow food, as well as, realizing it doesn’t take too much time and effort to those who are not so fortunate as your family may be. Later in life, when/if times get hard, they will be able to continue to feed, and care for, their families! As a teacher, I’d love to start a program like this at a K-8 school that I work at in Detroit! If you know of anyone that could help us get this started I’d love to follow your lead. Thank you for all you do and I look forward to hearing any information you could help me with!
    Ms. Foresi

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