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What’s Growing On? November 2023 News from Grow Education

by: Nate Sander, Grow Education Program Manager

New gardens at Sippican School in Marion

Happy fall! Our Grow Education farm-to-school program has expanded to new school districts, our team is growing, and we continue to build meaningful partnerships across the Southcoast to connect students and teachers to our food system.

This summer marked the first time that all 19 New Bedford and Westport elementary schools completed a full year of programming. Students participated in workshops throughout the late spring and by the end of the school year, all the gardens were overflowing with produce. Jenn, one of our former FoodCorps service members, stayed on to maintain the gardens over the summer and has now been hired by New Bedford Public School’s (NBPS) food service department as a full time Garden Coordinator! We are so excited to have her in this position and greatly appreciate NBPS continued dedication to sustaining and improving the program. The gardens provided an educational extension for multiple summer learning programs and the veggies harvested throughout the growing season were distributed to students and families.

In addition to supporting summer learning and maintenance in New Bedford, Grow also expanded to two new school districts this year – Old Rochester Regional and Wareham. The Sippican School in Marion is part of the Old Rochester Regional school district and was actually the first community school gardens built as part of the Grow network back in 2009. Through the support of Community Preservation Act funds, the old garden was redesigned, upgraded, and rebuilt over the summer. Third graders at Sippican have completed fall workshops including mapping, garlic planting, soil amending, sowing cover crop, and installing a blackberry hedge. Wareham Elementary’s new campus includes a beautiful garden space and with the financial support of A.D. Makepeace and the Arcadia Charitable Trust, Grow has teamed up with the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) teachers to implement Grow Education programming across all the elementary school grades. Teachers and staff from both schools participated in a full day of Grow Education professional development, hosted at Round the Bend Farm, where participants learned about the program and teaching resources, and had a chance to get their hands dirty in the fields. The food service staff for Westport Community Schools also joined us for a day of professional development at Eva’s Garden in South Dartmouth to explore local food and spend time team building and strategizing around localizing procurement for the district’s school meals. Plans are underway to provide a similar experience for all of the NBPS food service staff next summer. We are thrilled about these new partnerships and thank all the teachers, administrators, and funders for making it possible.

Our three new FoodCorps service members, Paul, Hazel, and Andrea are settled in at their assigned New Bedford schools for the 23/24 school year and will continue to connect the classroom, cafeteria, and community to Grow programming. They are busy implementing lessons, managing their schools’ gardens, supporting teachers and food service, and continuing to embed our farm-to-school model. With fall workshops now complete, classroom growing experiments are underway, lessons on nutrition and the food system are happening in the cafeteria, and the finishing touches are being put on a virtual field trip film series – a great collaboration with local filmmaker Ethan de Aguiar!


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