All those who attended Maine School Garden Day 2016 know how special the Albert S. Hall School in Waterville is.
The garden itself is a modest size, with six raised beds right on the blacktop next to their playground. There are some round beds for herbs and small vegetable plants, with easy access for small hungry hands. It is highly visible and accessible – students at recess will wander through and engage with the space. There are signs on the fence asking passersby to “Please Respect our Gardens”. Those signs were what first brought me to the Hall School several years ago. I found my way to Mary Dunn’s class for a series on vegetable varieties and seed saving, and always love coming back to their incredible flourishing program.
Sam Mclean, the Hall School’s FoodCorps service member, and Mary make an all-star groovy garden growing team, bringing many spectacular taste tests, special guests, and garden fun to the 4th and 5th grade students. They collaborate with Colby College during the summer, where Sam brings students for a weekly summer camp to work, move, and learn alongside Colby farm interns. We who attended Maine School Garden Day learned the Worm Song from Sam and witnessed Sam’s sensational dance moves. This is how he gets students moving even more in the garden: by bringing dances to songs like Peanut Butter Jelly Time and Ice Cream Cake, he gets everyone wiggling and waggling – even those of us with two left feet and clumsy garden boots.
They have had visits from Will Allen, CEO and founder of Growing Power; Cynthia Lord, Maine author of A Handful of Stars and other fantastic stories; Congresswoman Chellie Pingree; Patricia Klindienst, author of The Earth Knows My Name, and more, just in the past couple years. These well-known voices validate the garden work that much more, and further the sense of pride within the school’s culture.
The principal, Barbara Jordan, has become an avid supporter of the garden as well. With her administrative power she was able tosupply much needed water access (no more lugging buckets out to water the beds!) and promoted garden activities through hallway media and announcements. Administrative support can be key in propelling the garden’s growth, and Mrs. Jordan’s effort has not gone unrecognized: she was awarded Garden Administrator of the Year from Maine Ag in the Classroom at MSG Day last spring!
With Sam there for his second year of a five year FoodCorps presence in the school, we’ll have to keep a close eye on how this program continues to blossom. We might even learn a few more dance moves!