Community Garden

                                         

The Grow-to-Learn Schoolyard Gardens have a profound and positive impact on thousands of students, teachers, volunteers and community members each year, connecting them directly to the wonders of the natural world and environment while providing thousands of pounds of fresh, organic produce to food banks.

The Thistletown Schoolyard Garden was first established in 2010 on a patch of underutilized lawn adjacent to the school as an educational resource targeting improved student learning via dynamic and experiential opportunities to explore issues connected to food, nutrition and culinary arts, biology, ecology, agriculture, and the environment, creative arts and expressionism, and civic engagement and responsibility.

After several years of incremental improvements, in 2015, the garden perimeter was expanded to encompass approximately half an acre, an area roughly twice its original size, an outdoor classroom space was added to improve the functionality of the garden as a learning space, and a mini-fruit orchard was established to diversify the production potential.

Throughout the years the garden has consistently proved to be very productive, with a great variety of crops from around the world represented including melons, okra, eggplant, peppers, and squash, in addition to many herbs from diverse cultural traditions.  Ongoing efforts have been made simultaneously to increase the number of edible native fruit trees, shrubs, and bushes, as well as native flowering plants to attract birds, butterflies, and insect pollinators to the space. 

Harvests from the garden are used to supply the culinary arts program and students with fresh, organic produce for inclusion into their culinary training, and are also regularly incorporated into special value-added products, such as fruit and vegetable preserves, or featured in dishes prepared for catered events and activities as a component of the culinary arts program’s fund raising efforts. 

Surplus produce is distributed throughout the community through partnerships with several local food banks and a weekly onsite market stand. The Thistletown Schoolyard Garden is operated seasonally, from April 1 to November 1.  The garden is animated during regular school hours and after school. It is also operated throughout the months of July and August during the school summer vacation.

A project coordinator from the PACT Grow to Learn Schoolyard Garden program facilitates day –to-day garden operations on site, including educational programming and participation. Classroom teachers and secondary school students engage in curriculum based learning experiences in the garden, as well as experiential learning experiences by getting involved in project management activities during regular class time.

Thistletown students are eligible to earn academic credit through a cooperative education work placement in the position of garden assistant. Students may likewise complete community service hours by volunteering and helping with overall management, special projects and events, and daily garden tasks during lunch break, after school, and during the summer months.

University student interns, including teachers-in-training, as well as community groups and individual volunteers, also contribute to the upkeep of the garden. During the summer months of July and August, the Thistletown Schoolyard Garden is kept up by Thistletown students through full-time paid internships, summer coop students, as well as diverse cross-section of volunteer supporters.