KINGFIELD — What started as an elective after-school gardening program at Kingfield Elementary School in 2015 has taken root and grown into something that is shared with all K-4 students as part of the regular curriculum.

Kingfield Elementary School student Amelia Prince adds whipped cream to a serving of apple crisp during the school’s annual Growing Gardeners Harvest Meal on Thursday, Oct. 24. Dee Menear/Franklin Journal Buy this Photo

“It has really changed the culture of K-4 now that it is part of the curriculum. It is part of our school community. That was the goal from the beginning,” said teacher Selina Warren, co-author of the Growing Gardeners curriculum.

Before teaching at KES, Warren taught in Skowhegan schools. While there, she was also working on her Master of Education. Her thesis focus was nutrition and nature, she said.

“I realized the gardening curriculum we were working with was geared to city classrooms,” Warren said. “Growing Gardeners is geared to rural classrooms. The only difference between what we were doing here at Kingfield and what we are doing this year is that all the students are involved.”

The twelve-week program is divided into spring and fall sessions and covers four themes: gardening, physical activity, cooking and nutrition.

In the spring, students prepare the soil, plant seeds and seedlings, and tend to plants. Over the summer, Warren and other volunteers water and care for the growing vegetables. When fall rolls around, the young gardeners begin harvesting and enjoying the bounty.

Each week throughout the harvest season, Laura Quynn, SNAP-Ed program coordinator with Healthy Community Coalition, guides students in preparing a dish from that week’s harvest. SNAP-Ed is the education component of the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“By changing our model we have been able to reach more students,” Quynn said. When the program first started, Quynn had about 35 students. Now that it is part of the regular school day, about 60 kids are involved, she said.

The harvest is supplemented with produce from Hope Harvest Community Garden in Farmington, and crop shares from Riverweb, a farm in Avon, and Berry Fruit Farm in Livermore.

The culmination of the lesson plan is the annual Harvest Meal where students prepare food and serve it to their families and school community members.

The menu for this year’s meal, held on Thursday, Oct. 24, was full of hearty soups, homemade cornbread and fresh apple crisp.

Gardeners also saved seeds and sold them, along with surplus produce, at a farmers’ market held during the meal. Funds raised through the market will be used to purchase compost and other materials needed to continue the program.

“My favorite part is working in the garden and turning the soil,” said Willow Bachelder, 8, of Salem, as she set a crock of butternut squash soup on the serving tables.

Her classmate, Giovanna Caldwell, 8, of Lexington said she discovered purple and black beans inside a bean pod once. “That was really weird,” she said. “I really liked learning how to grow lots of veggies and I learned they taste yummy.”

“We learned what all plants need to grow,” the girls said in unison before singing the theme song of the program, “Sun, soil, water, and air; everything we eat; and everything we wear; comes from sun, soil, water, and air.”

Students Penelope Hodgins, at left, and Lorenzo Warren sell seeds during the annual Harvest Meal at Kingfield Elementary School on Thursday, Oct. 24. The seeds were harvested from produce grown in the school’s Growing Gardeners garden. Dee Menear/Franklin Journal Buy this Photo

 


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