A few years ago I did a feature photo shoot for Down East Magazine [see “Growing Minds” March 2009] about the Troy Howard Middle School Garden Project in Belfast, Maine. That initial assignment has taken me on an awesome journey: I created a year-long photo project in which I documented the Garden Project students, produced a multimedia piece about the Project for Down East, and held a solo-show, Learning to Grow: In the Garden with Troy Howard Middle School, at the Belfast library in March 2010.
My friend Jon, the Greenhouse Director, at the Troy Howard Middle School (THMS) in Belfast recently set up two webcams that capture what’s going on inside the greenhouse and outside in the garden throughout the day–and night! If you click on the image, it’ll open up to a large photo, and below it you’ll find a very cool time-lapse video. Jon made me blush by mentioning that my photo project inspired him!
So, what’s so special about THMS? Among many things, the school integrates learning in the garden into the curriculum through The Ecology Academy and The Garden Project.
The Ecology Academy: “. . . allows all of us—teachers, students, parents and community members to integrate what we are teaching and learning through the lens of ecology. We utilize our award-winning garden, not just as a work space, but also as a dynamic, organic classroom. Yes, the chores of sustaining a garden such as ours—22000 square feet (1/2 acre) of amazing growing potential—need to be done and some of the learning that accompanies this process are developing good, strong work habits, learning how to get along with others, and experiencing the satisfaction that naturally occurs when one does a good job. Strong self esteem is nurtured and blooms by the combination of working with our hands and our brains to complete a tangible, worthwhile project that we all have had a part in and we all feel proud.”
The Garden Project: “Our mission is to create a district wide agricultural project that promotes healthy living. At the Troy Howard Middle School we strive to integrate the school and its land with the community.
Our goal is to engage all students in a journey of discovery through gardening projects that achieve Maine science, math, technology and social studies learning results, produce nutritious food and pioneer action-research for sustainability. At the heart of the gardening program are the young people excited by making a real difference in their school and community.
The program provides RSU 20 educators a framework and activities that integrate gardening and our watershed within the curriculum. This is being achieved through teacher development workshops, school-community partnerships, in-class teaching that facilitates inquiry-based student projects (producing compost, earthworms, organic food, seeds, seedlings, knowledge and skills to share and sell), student-run businesses and community apprenticeships that grow empowered, academically successful young people.”
During the winter and spring months, the students sell their greens and other gorgeous Greenhouse goodies to the Belfast Co-op. Whenever I get the chance, I buy a bunch of their Swiss Chard, a most welcome rainbow of color during the long Maine winter. Last night we finished the remainder of a bunch. Hmm, time to get some more….