Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Spring Garden Update

Learning Gardens Update
Spring 2013

It was another busy spring in the Learning Gardens! We received a grant from Portland Trails that enabled us to offer staff development in outdoor education. It was presented in a hands-on, workshop fashion by Erica Beck Spencer, Coordinator for Outdoor Initiatives, FOSS Curriculum Specialist. During these workshops, teachers were outside trying out solar cells, sailing mini-parachutes, and many other activities that are part of the FOSS science curriculum.

Some of the grant money was used to purchase a worm composting “factory,” which is residing in the art room, under Mr. Dorson’s care. Starting in September, students will be saving snack scraps to feed the worms; the worms then will turn it into beautiful compost for the gardens. Many thanks to Mr. Dorson for taking this on!

 After School Garden Club was held throughout May. An enthusiastic group of 3rd – 5th graders weeded, raked, pruned, and planted. Many thanks to Hanson Field Flower Farm and Snell’s Family Farm for donating plants, as they do every year. One of my favorite moments, when pulling out the Japanese knotweed along the Nature Trail with the kids, is to discover the jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) in bloom. The more we weed, the more “Jacks” we discover. The patch gets bigger every year!

Our annual Master Gardener Work Day was also held in May. The original date was rained out and had to be rescheduled, thus we had a smaller group than usual, but an amazing amount of work was accomplished, including mulching the Bird & Butterfly Garden and laying wood chips on the paths. Thanks to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension (Cumberland County) for recruiting volunteers for this event, and to the South Portland Parks and Recreation Department for donating and delivering mulch and wood chips.  


Finally, our 7th annual Ecology Day was held in early June. The entire school cycled through three outdoor “nature stations” over the course of the day: “Plants for Pollinators” buzzed in the Bird & Butterfly Garden, “Meet the Worm Family” wiggled in the Outdoor Classroom, and “Art on the Boardwalk” flourished in the Rain Garden. A big thank you to all the staff and parent volunteers who ran the stations.
I will be maintaining the gardens over the course of the summer, and have a couple of helpers signed up to join me. I can always use another pair of hands! If  you would like to volunteer/like more information, please send me an email. Help support our wonderful Learning Gardens Project!     


Anne Cyr
Master Gardener
Coordinator, Skillin School Learning Gardens Project

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Learning Garden --End of the Year Update

Learning Gardens Update

          Another busy spring in the Learning Gardens! At the end of April, a work party was held to install a beautiful, professionally-made sign on the edge of the Bird & Butterfly Garden. The sign includes a map of the Learning Gardens, plus a brief history of the project. If you haven’t seen it yet, go and take a look!  
          Another work party was held on May 12th, which was the annual Master Gardener Workday. We had four Master Gardeners and a nice mix of school staff, parents, and students on hand to weed and prune the garden, add a new layer of mulch, and add wood chips to the paths. The After School Garden Club also met in May. Unfortunately, we were rained out twice, but much was accomplished the times we did meet.
          You may have heard that I am retiring this year. Yes, indeed, after thirty-one years of teaching, I am hanging up my “teacher hat.” However, the gardener hat is still on, as I have been awarded a small stipend from the School Ground Greening Coalition part of Portland Trails. Thus, I will continue to help maintain the Learning Gardens, help run Ecology Day and After School Garden Club, and volunteer to help teachers get their classes outside. I also have access to a $1200 mini-grant to support our greening efforts in the coming school year. So, you haven’t seen the last of me!
          Finally, I am requesting your help in keeping an eye on the Learning Gardens over the summer. I have noticed that kids have been “burning rubber” with their bikes on the Rain Garden boardwalk. Hopefully, it can be cleaned off. If you see the gardens being mistreated, please speak up, contact the school office, or – if the office if closed and you feel it is warranted - call the police. It is up to all of us to keep the gardens beautiful and safe.

Many thanks for all your support,
Anne Cyr
Master Gardener
Coordinator of the Learning Gardens Project

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Learning Gardens Project Update

Whew! What an incredibly busy fall we’ve had! It all started with a work party back on September 10th. The crew was small but much was accomplished. In the Rain Garden, eight new shrubs were planted (to replace ones that had failed) and purple loosestrife and red (swamp) maple were removed. I would like to give kudos to Skillin parent Frank Lorello for working all day with my husband Conrad; they put a new layer of decking on the Nature Trail boardwalk. It looks fabulous!

After School Garden Club started up at the end of September. The  enthusiasm of this group of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders was unflagging. They turned compost, pulled weeds, pruned shrubs, cut back perennials, collected litter, dug out red maple, planted bulbs… A good time was had by all! Many, many thanks to all the Skillin staff members who helped to run Garden Club.

Finally, on Wednesday, October 19th, we had our 5th annual Ecology Day. The Learning Gardens Committee and the We Can Committee worked together once again to organize the activities and volunteers. Students spent the day exploring the monarch butterfly life cycle and migration to Mexico, learned a bit about leaf structure and created beautiful leaf rubbings, and experienced “Earth Yoga” on the boardwalk (until the rain forced us all to move inside!). The phrase I heard most throughout the day was, “This is awesome!” I heartily agree. It was awesome, and very gratifying.

The days grow shorter now. I just switched on the grow light in my classroom and placed all the cuttings we have started underneath. Gardening will have to continue indoors for the time being. Messing about with plants is such an instant stress reliever; I thoroughly recommend it. Get those amaryllis and paper white bulbs started (and send some in to your child’s classroom!) – they will add much cheer in the months ahead.

Many thanks for all your support of the Learning Gardens Project, and please let me know if you would like to join the committee or just be added to the “occasional volunteer” list. Your help will be most welcomed.

Anne Cyr
1st Grade Teacher
Master Gardener
Coordinator of the Learning Gardens Project

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Welcome to the new website!

Hello everyone!

We are going through some updates with our website to make it easier for students and parents to access/utilize. There are some new links on the page, and many pages for you to check out. We have yet finalize all of the pages so some do say "site under construction". Please bare with us.

Happy exploring!

Mrs. Pelletier
First Grade Teacher
Learning Garden Website Coordinator

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The last post from before the summer

Learning Gardens Update  
Wow! It has been a gardening marathon here at Skillin School. On Saturday, May 14 th, twenty-six students, parents, staff members, and Master Gardeners planted the Rain Garden (yes, we have finally decided on a name for our new wetland habitat garden!). Over 100 trees, shrubs, and perennials were planted in three hours flat. Talk about teamwork! It looks fantastic. With all these new plants, it is very important that folks stay on the boardwalk – and out of the wetland! Please help reinforce this important rule when you are visiting with your children.
The After School Garden Club met four times this spring to clean up the Bird and Butterfly Garden and to “pop in” about 200 annuals and perennials. Many thanks to Hanson Field Flower Farm and Snell’s Family Farm for the generous plant donations they make every year! Garden Club members also pulled up lots of “bamboo” (japanese knotweed) and picked up litter along the Nature Trail. They were excited to discover that the delightful native plant known as “jack-in the pulpit” is spreading nicely throughout the woodland.
More excitement is on the way next week when we hold our 4 th annual Ecology Day on June 1 st. We “kick off” the day with an opening ceremony for the new Rain Garden, and then all 21 classes have a turn to cycle through three nature awareness activities. Thank you to both the Learning Gardens Committee and the many parent volunteers who are running this event.
Finally, please look for a form going home in totes to sign up to help with the gardens this summer. I usually go to the school about six times over the summer to work on the gardens, and would love your help and company! Even if you would be willing to come once for a couple of hours, that would be great.
Enjoy this precious time of year! I hope you are able to spend lots of time in the great, green outdoors with your children in the coming months.
Anne Cyr
1 st Grade Teacher
Coordinator of the Learning Gardens Project