The Maple Shade School and Community Garden is a project that was developed and is maintained by the students in our middle and high school multiply disabled program. The garden is located adjacent to the Administration office and presently consists of five 4X4 square foot garden plots. This represents an increase of one plot from the previous year. The students are involved with every aspect of the development of the garden from location to what to grow. They grow the seeds, plant, assist in the maintenance and eat what they harvest. They were also involved in writing and being awarded a grant from Wegmans to help start the garden.
The purpose of the Garden is to help address 21st Century Skills identified by the New Jersey Department of Education in:
- Collaboration and Teamwork
- Career and Technical Education
- Plant Systems
To address these skills the students are involved in a number of tasks that by the end helps them to develop the skills needed to fully participate and function in the world as independently as they can post graduation from high school. Students should:
1) Be able to identify the tasks involved in developing, implementing and maintaining a school garden.
2) Identify good gardening practices
3) Understand the health benefits of a school garden
4) Identify how a school garden benefits yourself, your school and your community
5) In what ways does a school garden relate to your individual transitions goals?
We partnered with the school, who will start the garden, then the Green Team and volunteers will continue it into the summer once the students are out of school. The township helped get the garden off the ground by donating plants, compost and mulch. The Green Team worked to recruit a local Boy Scout who helped build trellises and fix up the beds, which was paid for by the group. The Scouts and township also helped secure two rain barrels to be used to water the garden. The Green Team also put a call out for volunteers to ask what they wanted to plant, as well as to help water the garden all summer long, while sharing in its bounty. We will do this via an online schedule.
We are promoting the garden via our website and Facebook page in the local media. We feel this partnership is a win-win for the school and community to ensure the students’ hard work early on in the season doesn’t go to waste by finding volunteers to help take over the care in the summer by weeding, harvesting, watering and pest control.