When Drury High School Principal Amy Meehan returned from a service-learning leadership conference for school administrators in 2007, she was inspired to spark a local Garden Mosaics program. She saw this as an opportunity to increase teacher and student collaboration across disciplines, to strengthen students’ connectedness to school, to provide an outdoor classroom for engaging, hands on learning experiences, and to contribute needed food to the local community. Her idea coincided with a community-wide initiative called Target: Hunger that strived to increase access to healthy food for local people facing food insecurity. A partnership was launched between the NAPS service-learning program, the Growing Healthy Gardening Program, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts (parent organization for Target: Hunger), and the Berkshire Food Project. Grants from the community partners supported a leadership group of teachers and partners who met over the course of several years to connect gardening to curriculum, identify service opportunities and scope out an initial plan. With the leadership of science, technology, math, English and family and consumer science teachers and students, the first Drury beds were constructed and installed in spring of 2008 and cultivated by students during the summer STEPS program.
Over the past seven years, the program has spread across the entire school district. Funded with service-learning grants and facilitated by the leadership of great teachers at each site, organic gardens have been built, installed and tended by students. Gardens are located at Brayton Elementary, Sullivan Elementary, Greylock Elementary, Drury High School, and the E-3 Academy. The school district’s Off-Campus Program provides construction support, seedlings, and onsite learning enhancement activities for students of all ages.
Truly a Mosaic experience, the program has involved teachers from all schools and disciplines, and from after-school and summer programs as well. We have been fortunate that from the beginning, Jennifer Munoz from the Growing Health Garden Program has collaborated with us to coordinate planting, maintenance and harvesting activities at each of the sites, to weigh and document yields, and to ensure that gardens are harvested and maintained when student groups are not available. Service connections have included the donation of all harvested food to the Berkshire Food Project, rainwater collection, composting, artistic signage and construction of a garden shed. In addition, students have designed, built and installed gardens at four community sites: Sperry Avenue, River Street, the Berkshire Food Project, and Headstart.
Many students have also had the opportunity to prepare and serve lunch at the Berkshire Food Project to see firsthand how the school harvest is needed and used. As a district, donated contributions of fresh, organic and delicious produce amount to over three hundred pounds per year and include: strawberries, sugar snap peas, snap beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, Asian greens, beets, turnips, lettuce, arugula, swiss chard, summer squash and zucchini, winter squash, potatoes, sweet and hot peppers, green onions, radishes, carrots, garlic, herbs, celery, cabbage, collards, kale, and edible flowers.
Thank you to all of you who have contributed to this excellent initiative.
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