It is hard to miss the large community garden that is at St. Albans City School (SACS). However, if you start to walk more of the school grounds, you will also take notice of the new orchard and smaller garden beds that are all around the perimeter of the school, as well as some raspberry bushes. Under the guidance of Heather Smith, the school is actively using these gardens to not only teach students where their food comes from, but integrating it into all realms of academics.
In 2013, SACS received a grant from the Vermont Department of Agriculture to starts a farm-to-school program. The grant enabled them to hire a part time coordinator and jump start the program. The program has multiple facets. One is simply to show kids that families can be fed from gardens. Smith says, “When the kids show interest in planting, tending plants, harvesting and cooking plants, they become so invested that they make surprisingly healthy choices. Even the teachers have been surprised by the vegetables that they will eat.”
The benefits go beyond health. Each learning community has been able to plant their own individual garden of their choosing. There are salsa gardens, butterfly gardens, salad bowl gardens, and more. Each class had to research how to choose the right plants, how to care for it and to become a mini expert on their garden. The librarians were included and proactive in pulling references for the students to use. This provided an outlet for nonfiction reading and research for students. The produce was then incorporated into math and writing lessons. There was one community, Team Imagination, who used pumpkins in a hands-on lesson for fractions.
Students have also been able to take field trips to local producers to see what they are growing and how they are doing it. They also can bring produce back to use within their classrooms. The impact has gone beyond the individual students. Smith says, “Some families have started their own vegetable garden as a result.”
To see the full scope of the ongoing projects at SACS, check out http://sacsfarmtoschool.weebly.com