Old Town Primary School’s ‘garden of learning’ becomes an extension of the classroom

When Old Town Elementary School opened a school garden many years ago, the purpose was to beautify the school grounds and give students the opportunity to explore and play in a more natural setting. Since then, the garden concept has literally “grown up” as the school began using the garden as an opportunity to integrate the space into the daily curriculum. In conjunction with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Staff, the school has developed a Legacy Curriculum, with each grade level growing and caring for different crops.

From kindergarten, students grow apples and sunflowers. They plant their apple trees in the spring and watch different varieties of apples bloom and grow, which they can savor in the fall. They also plant their sunflowers in the spring and use them for a kindness project, where they give the flowers to people to brighten their days.

First graders make indoor seed tape with carrots and radishes. A month before school ends, they plant their radishes and have a harvest on the last day of school. To show that different plants take different amounts of time to develop, they plant their carrots the last week of school and harvest them when they return to school in the fall, when they have taste tests with different sauces and cooking methods.

Second graders grow pumpkins. They weigh and measure the circumference of their pumpkins and collect seeds for cooking and planting. They learn how to prepare pumpkin in a healthy, easy and inexpensive way that they can take home with the family. On the last day of school each year, they compare the growth rates of their pumpkins.

In third grade, students grow various microgreens indoors under a grow light. They can try the different greens and vote for their favorites. After collecting the votes, they graph and analyze the results to see which was the most popular.

Finally, when students reach fourth grade, they grow single-seed potatoes. They cut them in half: they plant half in the school garden and the other half in a container that they take home to care for during the summer. Once the potatoes are ready, students harvest them and prepare multiple healthy potato recipes and vote for their favorites, which they then graph.

farm stand

OTES Farm Stall

garden of learning

OTES Learning Garden

Student caring for plants

Student caring for plants

Educators at Old Town Elementary Schools say they have seen a great sense of pride and joy in their students and their role in growing the product of their grade levels. Since this change in curriculum, students and staff see the garden as an extension of the classroom. Students take pride in planting and reaping bounty, even creating an opportunity on Tuesday afternoons to contribute to the school’s farm stall. The farm stand, which is open to both Old Town Elementary School families and the public, has created a great opportunity for the school to impact its citizens and provide a great resource to be proud of, a resource that would be possible without your garden of learning. .

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