Learning to Grow Show, Belfast, Maine

Learning to Grow: In the Garden with Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast, Maine is an exhibition of photographs, from 2007–2009, by freelance photographer Jennifer Smith-Mayo, documenting THMS students as they learn to sow and grow . . . and so much more! The show, Learning to Grow, will be on display in the Kramer Gallery of the Belfast Free Library, March 1-31, 2010.

In the summer of 2007, photographer Jennifer Smith-Mayo received a photo assignment from Down East Magazine to cover a story about the Troy Howard Middle School Garden Project in Belfast [see Down East Magazine, March 2009]. What began as a regular assignment quickly developed into a longer, more involved project.

While spending time with the students and teachers in the THMS Garden, she quickly realized how important this garden is for the students, the school, and the community. The Garden helps students build gardening skills, teaches them how to run a business, eat healthy food (tons—literally, tons—of freshly harvested veggies are used by the school’s kitchen annually), get outdoors and flex their muscles, and it serves as an outdoor classroom.

One autumn day while photographing, Smith-Mayo noticed a group of students and their math teacher in the pumpkin patch. When she asked a student what they were doing, he said his team was calculating a pumpkin’s weight by taking measurements of the pumpkin and working with a chart. Smith-Mayo realized that the Garden offered students an experiential way to learn, hands-on, in an outdoor classroom. “Every kid in America should have this opportunity,” she says.

“I believe that by working in the Garden students gain life skills that will help them become better citizens,” continues Smith-Mayo. “THMS students run indoor and outdoor farmstands at school, they sell their vegetables to the Belfast Co-Op, and throughout the year they deliver boxes and boxes of veggies to the soup kitchen in Belfast. And more often than not, they do all these things with smiles on their faces.”

For more information, contact Smith-Mayo at jsm@jennifersmithmayo.com/blog