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!
Coordinator, Skillin School Learning Gardens Project