By: Nora FoxWe just wrapped up our first garden committee meeting of the school year and are feeling so grateful for the dedication of the group and community members over the past ten months. The committee at Bruce Vento School began last winter and has been the driving force for the growth of the garden and its positive impact in both the school and surrounding neighborhood. The committee has over twenty members, including teachers, staff and administration from the school, project partners with Second Harvest Heartland, master gardeners from the Twin Cities, and faculty and staff from the University of Minnesota.
It felt fitting, given the recent change in season, to reflect on what worked well this first year and share what we were thankful for during this organic process. The group unanimously agreed the leadership and commitment of those involved in the garden was key to its success. Many of the members acknowledged the guidance and positive leadership of the school principal, Scott Masini, noting that without his permission and support, this wouldn’t be possible. And Masini’s response to this recognition? He was quick to say without the commitment of the committee and the staff to take on the planning and implementation of the garden, its success story would still be a distant dream.
The garden also created a stronger sense of community, both with students and even between teachers and staff at the school. A fourth grade teacher was thrilled to see his students connect with one another as they shared in trying new herbs and vegetables together. He said by planting, picking, and taste-testing new food together they engaged in a shared experience that proved to last beyond the garden. He even notes a change in how students interact with one another this year versus last year. The same students that were typically more physically aggressive when in conflict are now adopting a verbal means of communication…. Is there a connection, he wonders? We certainly think so!
One member shared an unexpected, but positive, result of the garden was the opportunity to bond with other colleagues. She reflected with the group, saying the time they spent together was very authentic, and she felt herself growing closer to those she’s worked alongside as they built garden boxes for strawberries and spread mulch in the spring months.
Of course, no committee meeting would be complete without a list of ideas and future plans and the garden group is no exception. The committee hopes to provide professional development opportunities for teachers and staff to share to further encourage the many creative and integrative ways of incorporating school curriculum with hands-on experience in the garden. Additionally, the committee would like to expand its communication with neighbors and other community members to foster even more involvement in the care and harvest of the garden. For now, staff and students at Bruce Vento will put the garden “to bed” for the cold winter months ahead and will resume meetings in January to begin the process again!
Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, Healthy Learners is an ongoing partnership between the Extension Children, Youth, and Family Consortium and the Bruce Vento Elementary School. Together, along with many other partners, we are developing engaging learning environments that promote student learning and wellness.