Project G.R.O.W. (Garden Roots & Outdoor Wellness) at Mt. Ararat High School has taken off! The program is led by Darcy Baggett and Becca Norklun.
Throughout the 2022/2023 school year, they had garden involvement in a variety of ways, all of which contributed to meeting their impact goal of 1870 student hours.
In the Fall, the team was able to partner with both the Interact Club and the Brunswick Area Rotary Club to build a tool shed. Two adults and five students built it together over a weekend using the MAITC (Maine Agriculture in the Classroom) grant-funded shed kit. This now enables them to house all of their new tools and equipment, also purchased with the funding, out of harm, and in a locked space.
Perhaps the most exciting project of the year was the collaborative sculpture project, organized by the school’s Art Department, their Community Pathways Program, and Project GROW. They invited internationally known environmental sculptor, Patrick Dougherty and his son, Sam Dougherty to work with roughly 200 students over the course of two full days to make large garden sculptures out of local saplings. It was featured on local news and in local papers – a huge success that students are still talking about!
Project GROW Garden Group met weekly, even throughout the winter, to plan the garden’s development, write area businesses and collaborators, harvest and sow Maine native seeds from their own school property, and more. The Leadership group is led by two Garden Coordinators, and eight students of varying high school ages. In the Spring, this group continued their work in the physical garden space, planting, harvesting, and planning new sections of the project’s “campus.”
Science teachers brought their students out to the garden during class time to teach them about the environment, plant and animal biology, and conduct soil science. An estimated number of students who were involved in the program through science classes is 100; some classes did this one time, others used the garden several times throughout the year for their research and outdoor exploration.
The health classes also used the garden to explore healthy living options, such as growing one’s own food, and discussing garden work as an opportunity for physical exercise. More specifically, t
he teacher of the “Fit for Life” course brought her students to the garden each semester, creating short-term visits with long-term impact for approximately 50 students.The Functional Life Skills class, Alternative Education Program, and the Community Pathways programs each used the garden this spring as a place for healthy, hands-on, outdoor learning. Collectively, these programs serve approximately thirty students and do a variety of things appropriate for their students’ needs.
This year, the district’s extended school year program for students with special needs was offered at Mt. Ararat High School, which means that 95 elementary and middle school students had access to Project GROW, as well. Every rain-free day of the 4-week program, these young students could be seen walking the gardens, sampling green beans, exploring our stick sculptures, and playing games.
“As a garden coordinator, it was an incredibly rewarding and unexpected scene this summer,” said one of the Project GROW organizers.
While their goal for student use has been met this year, they still hope to increase garden access even further. The Project organizers believe all academic disciplines at MTA can benefit from the use of Project GROW.
Follow along on their new Instagram account: @MTA_ProjectGROW
This story originated in the Maine Agriculture in the Classroom Newsletter where you can find more good news, grants, resources and more. To submit a story or an idea to showcase the great things happening in Maine schools email Rachel Paling at email@example.com.