Cardinal Gardens…Volunteer With Us!

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Margaret McKnight

Gabby L’Heureux & Brooklyn Lehto plant seeds in the High Tunnel

Margaret McKnight, Teacher, second grade

Spring is here but it feels like summer inside our high tunnel. This 2015/16 school year is the second year South Shore has had a high tunnel up and running after receiving it through a partnership with the Bayfield County UW-Extension as part of a Farm to School grant. Last summer two agripreneur students learned how to farm in the high tunnel to raise, market, and sell a tomato crop to local businesses and the community. The focus of the high tunnel this spring and summer is to raise vegetables for the school lunches and snacks.

Our students have been getting their hands dirty preparing the raised beds inside the high tunnel for spring crops of lettuce, spinach, and carrots. Middle school, high school, and elementary students have worked together to weed, till, and plant the raised beds inside the tunnel. We hope to have home grown salad in our school lunches in May. During the summer months, students will plant a summer crop of bush beans, cucumbers, melons, carrots, and peppers inside the high tunnel. The raised beds located outside of the high tunnel will be planted with potatoes and winter squash.

We need your help! The summer months when students are not at school pose a challenge for maintaining the school garden. We need community help during the summer with such tasks as watering, weeding, mulching, and other garden jobs. Here’s how you can help:

  1. Every Thursday starting June 23 from 4-7pm will be a work day in the high tunnel and outside garden spaces. Volunteers from the community, including students and families, are invited to work on those days. Please come when you can during that time frame to help with gardening tasks and projects. We will post a calendar on the school web site, Cardinal Report and PTO web sites as a reminder.
  1. If Thursdays don’t work, families and/or individuals could volunteer to take care of the garden at other times (for a day, a few days, or a week at a time). The school website will have a link to a form you can sign up and we’ll contact you to arrange times.  Sign-up for Community Volunteering in the South Shore Cardinal Garden

We are fortunate to have such a wonderful resource at our school. The school garden space is an opportunity for interdisciplinary and multi age learning with the following goals:

  • Foster awareness of where our food comes from and create a connection to whole foods
  • Serve fresh locally raised vegetables to our students
  • Teach healthy eating and wellness
  • Teach that gardening is an accessible and lifelong activity
  • Appreciate the beauty of nature
  • Facilitate others to use the garden as an outdoor educational space

Families and/or individuals can sign up to take care of the garden for a day, a few days, or a week at a time. Sign up for specific work days that are scheduled.

Schedule a work day once a week for people to volunteer on

Signs with info about garden/instructions for that section

Make a game out of pulling weeds! Be creative about addressing kids and getting them to do garden chores. Kids will happily weed if the task is proposed as a search-and-destroy mission for the “weed of the week.” Show students the “weed of the week” and see how many they can find.

Example: See which team can pull the biggest pile of weeds.

Children often don’t know the difference between the weeds and the good plants. Make weeding easier for the kids by showing them pictures or examples of the weeds they are going to pull that day.

Example: “Today we are going to pull all of the dandelions.” You might consider making a photocopy booklet of common weeds for your garden site to which the children can refer. Or, one class can create a “common weeds” flip book for other classes to use.

Assign classrooms to areas of the garden. By getting children involved from the beginning (with planting the seeds or plants), they will feel like they have ownership of the garden. This will depend on what type of garden you have and how many classes are involved.

Example: Ms. Johnson’s class plants the bean teepee area; therefore, they are responsible for pulling weeds, watering, and harvesting that area of the garden and Mr. Jackson’s class is responsible for planting and maintaining the herb bed.

Tip: At many sites, each class has their own garden plot within the overall school garden for which they have complete responsibility, and there may be joint “common” areas as well. The maintenance plan in these instances might only need to address common areas and maintenance during holidays and summer months. Create a plan that works for your site, conditions, and users.

In spring, before school is out for the summer, have families sign up to “adopt” the garden for one week during the summer. This way, the responsibility does not fall on one person or family.

Example: During Week One the Ramirez family is responsible for watering, weeding, and harvesting the garden.

Tip: If possible, have two (2) families assigned for each week, so that the garden will be maintained even if one family is not able to fulfill their obligation. In hot summer months, a week without maintenance, especially water, can be the death of a garden!

Divide classrooms into teams and rotate teams through different garden tasks.

Example: Rotations might be watering, weeding, harvesting, or cultivating.