Friday, August 17, 2018

Windham Recreation "Green Team" Campers keep Windham High School Community Garden alive

This summer, a small group of campers from the Windham Recreation Adventure Camp group spent part of their time at camp working and learning in the Windham High School Community Garden. This garden was started in 2011 by a high school activity group calling themselves Green Roots. In addition to learning about various aspects of environmental science and doing projects around the school, the group was able to convert an enclosed courtyard space into a school garden.

With the help of several grants - lumber, tools, soil components and even a shed were obtained.

Students built the raised beds under the direction of former teacher and master gardener, Bill Keller and Earth Science teacher Lindsay Hanson. Over the next few years, beds were added by Windham/Raymond Adult Education classes, also taught by Keller.

Each year a variety of vegetables are planted, nurtured and harvested. Vegetables have been used by the school lunch program, taken home by students and teachers and given to families in need.

This space is more than just a garden. It is a place of learning about topics one might not even consider as “gardening”. Teachers of several subjects such as art, science, math and even English have used the space for various learning activities. There are a couple of picnic tables in the space
where students can just sit and read, eat lunch or quietly work on something.

This is the third year that the Windham Recreation campers have been involved in the garden during
the summer weeks. Calling themselves the “Green Team”, they spend time several days a week planting, watering, weeding and even harvesting some of the veggies. Once or twice a week, Keller would come in to teach the students some things about gardening and guide them in things they could do during the week. This year, counselors Bailey Turner and Julia Hamilton helped in the day to day supervision of the campers when they were able to spend time in the garden. the beginning of the camping season, the campers learned about how this garden started, some of the advantages of raised beds for this type of location and how to properly water the beds. Since many plants had already been started by the high school and adult education, the campers did some weeding around them as well as harvesting some of the lettuce to take home before cleaning out that bed and preparing it for a future planting.

The campers learned how to measure and mark with strings a square foot garden space to plant some beans to hopefully be harvested in the fall for the school lunch program. Campers were taught about the soil and how composting of organic matter in the composting bin could be used to replenish the beds in following years.

A bed of radishes was started a few weeks into camp and was flourishing by camps end. Students checked progress on plants noting how long it took for seeds to germinate and grow.

The involvement of the Windham Recreation campers has provided a fun and interesting learning experience for them while at the same time been a great way to keep the high school community garden going during the summer. The campers gladly took time out of their activities to make sure the plants were well watered during this very dry season and the amazing growth in the gardens is a result of their work.

Enjoying chives the "Green Team" planted
On August 2, several of the campers and counselors went on a field trip to Bumbleroot Organic Farm in Windham. They were given a tour by Ben Whalen who explained the workings of the farm, a little bit about their philosophy of growing things as close to nature as possible and of giving back to the community.

The campers and counselors were then given a chance to do some volunteer work in one of the strawberry fields that will be ready for harvest next year. The students got dirty and sweaty and learned a bit about how much work goes into the food that comes to their tables. On the way home, they stopped for a short tour of the Windham Community Garden where they learned a bit about how members of the community could come together to share space, tools, and comradery while growing fresh tasty food for their tables and those in need.

In a follow up with Ben Whalen of Bumbleroot, he shared that “It was good having you and the kids out to the farm, despite the heat! The strawberry fields look way better than they would have without your help.”

Next summer Windham Recreation is hoping to offer campers this experience as an “enrichment” program which would allow for more designated times and learning opportunities in the gardens.      

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