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Two Rochester Schools Take On Gardening Projects With the Help of a Grant and Community Members’ Support

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Superintendent Kyle Repucci, Maple Street Magnet School Principal Dr. Erin Mahoney and Nancy Loud School Principal Suzanne Baczewski are pleased to announce that Rochester Public Schools received a grant to update the community garden at Maple Street Magnet School (MSMS) and will also be building a new garden at Nancy Loud School (NLS).

Maple Street Magnet School Receives Grant for New Garden Boxes

On March 20, MSMS was awarded the Master Gardener School Grant to assist with the building of new community garden boxes around the school.

NH Extension Master Gardener Lisa Peters O’Brien assisted teachers Melissa-Lynn Wheeler and Indra Edmonds in surveying the grounds and assessing the school’s current garden materials and plan. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade also walked the grounds and were able to submit ideas for improvement.

After the assessment of the grounds was completed, teachers transported the materials needed to build the boxes, including air compressors and power tools to the school. They also purchased lumber to build the new garden boxes.

The new boxes were built by Dr. Mahoney, as well as Edmonds, Wheeler and Susan Abiatti over April break.

Also assisting in the garden efforts were MSMS custodian Brian Whinkley, Strafford County 4-H member James Edmonds and his father Thomas Edmonds, Tom Crosby and Ryan Hardin of Hardin Construction.

Once the boxes were built and the weather warmed up, students were able to examine the fresh soil and plant and care for seedlings.

MSMS also developed learning projects for students in kindergarten through fifth grade to align with the garden work. Kindergarten students studied cause and effect, first graders studied bees and other animals, second graders studied erosion, third graders learned about the composition and life cycles of plants, fourth graders measured potential garden bed plans and created a mock budget and fifth graders tied their work together through tools learned through the University of New Hampshire Citizen Science, Stream Safari project.

“Thanks to the Master Gardener School Grant, we can extend our reach to not just students and families, but also residents who can plant, harvest and eat from the community garden,” Principal Mahoney said. “We look forward to seeing students and teachers continuing to work collaboratively on the effort to provide our community with a sustainable food source.”

Since 2014, MSMS has operated a community garden. During the school year, students regularly tend to and harvest the garden. Volunteers, including students, families and neighbors also help to maintain the gardens during the summer months.

Nancy Loud School Builds New Garden

Kindergarten teacher Sarah Wormstead and first grade teacher Monique Boudreau recently spearheaded an effort to establish a community garden at NLS.

On May 27, staff and volunteers filled the new garden beds with soil to mark the beginning of this new project. The goal of this project is to build a garden that students, families and community members can use to harvest vegetables.

In April students began the process of growing plants in the classroom by placing soil and seeds in milk cartons. All of the milk cartons will eventually be moved to the new garden beds.

The wood used to build the garden beds was donated by Tom Bergin, who is Wormstead’s brother. Wormstead’s family also assisted in building the new garden boxes.

Additionally, soil from the garden was donated by former Nancy Loud student Tom Hukins of Thomas Hukins, LLC in Farmington. Talon Organic Farms of Rochester, owned by Jan and Dan Talon, who are parents of a Rochester Public Schools custodian, donated many of the plants for the garden.

“This is a great way to involve students, teachers and the surrounding community in a collaborative and sustainable initiative,” Principal Baczewski said. “I am proud of the work our students and staff have already done and want to extend a special thanks to the donors who helped make this effort possible. We hope that this garden will be a great addition to our school and our neighborhood.”

Throughout the year, first graders have learned the plant cycle and the importance of bees for pollination. Students plan to make posters for local farmers’ markets about the importance of bees in plant life. The kindergarten class studied the different parts of the plant.

The first graders also used their math skills to measure the garden beds and mark spots where the seedlings need to be planted to ensure space for proper growth.

NLS is looking for volunteers to help maintain the garden beds over the summer months. Teachers will be sending an interest survey in the coming weeks for families who wish to volunteer to water and weed the gardens.

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