The Garden project at Green Meadow Elementary School in Castleton, New York, is a year-round venture spearheaded by 3rd grade teachers Betsy Van Deusen and Meg Ford. The project starts each year in the early Spring when children from each of the teacher's classes begin their flower, herb and vegetable seeds in their classroom under specially designed grow-lights, donated by master gardener, Ken York. About the same time, a team of stalwart parent volunteers turn the 18 foot by 30 foot raised bed garden, spread the decayed compost from their compost heap, divide the surrounding flower beds and spread mulch in hopes of keeping summer weeds to a minimum. As soon as their plants have matured and the ground is ready, students from the two classes begin planting their seedlings outside, with the help of a parent volunteer.

As the plants grow, the children keep a plant journal, in which they carefully track the changes in their plants. Additionally, with the help of the school art teacher, they learn the intricacies of drawing plant parts. These activities, interspersed with plant lessons based on the New York State Standards, continue until school breaks for the summer. Over the summer, parents are enlisted to weed and maintain the garden, while the two classroom teachers harvest and freeze the vegetables, as necessary. Teachers let as many vegetables as possible stay in the garden for harvesting by returning students in the fall.

Come fall, a new class of 3rd graders enter Green Meadow and inherit a flourishing garden, freezers full of produce and an abundance of blooming flowers. After exploring the garden and monitoring it in its final stages, all the remaining produce is harvested. Children from the two classes then begin preparation of the always-anticipated "Harvest Feast". Over the next several days, and using as many of their homegrown items as possible, the children make everything from spaghetti sauce to eggplant parmesan, corn bread to stuffed peppers and zucchini squares to three-bean salad.

Teachers and parent volunteers alike use this busy and exhilarating time to sneak in lessons on measurement, cooperative learning and more. Students from the previous year's classes receive specially designed invitations to the feast and wait in anticipation as the smell of sauce permeates the school.

Finally, the big event arrives. Approximately 150 students, parents and friends share in this amazing, student generated, New York State Harvest Feast. While they do, Mrs. VanDeusen and Mrs. Ford look on, astonished by what their children have accomplished, delighted with the turnout and wondering what they can do to top the event next year.

This article was written by Betsy VanDeusen. For more information, call her at the Green Meadow School • (518) 477-6422

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