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The Garden connection: Sunflowers
SUNFLOWERS – Buckfield High School students visit first graders at Hartford Elementary School to plant Sunflowers for both Mother’s Day and The Garden Project. Pictured: Taylor Gammon, Bayley Caouette, Hannah Robbins and Kassandra Keough.
DATA ENTRY - Cameron Jones, Hope Trenoweth, McKayla Darling and Jaydan Levesque work on their Sunflower Project.
OXFORD HILLS – Last fall, first graders from the Hartford Elementary School took their first field trip to The Garden at the Buckfield Junior-Senior High School.
Students worked with Middle School teachers and students, learning about vegetables in the garden. The middle school students engaged the little ones in creating books that led them on a scavenger hunt of the garden.
During their visit, the first graders harvested pumpkins, squash, beans, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Middle school teacher Annette Caldwell "sprouted" an idea to keep the connection between the middle-high school gardeners and their visitors from the Hartford School.
It’s called the Sunflower Project and it is headed by Caldwell and Gretchen Kimball, another middle school teacher.
High school students recently visited the classrooms of Melissa Reuter, Marilyn Chesley and Melissa Underwood at Hartford. The visit started with young ones guessing how tall sunflowers grow, what color they are and why it is important to plant sunflowers.
“They discussed planting seeds for Mothers' Day,” said Melissa Reuter. “As well as some to be transplanted into The Garden. Each first grader planted two to three seeds, labeled their pot, and moistened the soil.”
Students even created data tables to record growth over the next several weeks and the high school students will return weekly to help the younger gardeners measure and record their observations.
Kimball said there is something empowering when students plant a seed.
“They nurture these teeny-weeny seeds for weeks,” she explained. “They watch them as they grow to blossom in the sunshine. Then they proudly present them to their mothers. The nurtured become the nurturer!”
Once the seedlings reach several inches, high school students will help first graders to transplant their sunflowers into their decorated pots as gifts for their mothers.
The remainder of the sunflower plants will be used by middle school students who are planning a sunflower maze to be created over the course of the summer.
High school students enjoyed their day at Hartford.
“I like the idea of the Sunflower Project because it gets everyone involved,” said freshman, Mckayla Darling. “Middle and high school students are already working in the garden, and it amazes me that even first graders will be part of something huge.”
Freshman Jennifer Dyer says there is something to be learned for all the students.
“I'm learning how important it is to be a good role model for young children.”
And it was also fun.
“It was so much fun to listen to them use their manners while trading stickers for decorating their pots,” said Bayley Caouette. “And talk about how much their mothers will love the sunflowers.”
The first graders enjoyed their day with the big kids as well.
“The first step is to take a seed,” said Jaydan Levesque. “A sun flower in the soil. And the second is to take an eye dropper and the third is to give them sunlight. You poke a hole to put a seed in it. You water it again. It will grow and grow tall!”
Hope Trenoweth said it was fun.
“High schoolers helped with a Mother's Day project. We are going to transplant them. We have big pots and little pots. Mine is little. We then got to decorate them. Our teacher bought some foam stickers and green and yellow fat-tape for the sun and grass. We each got one of each color and we cut them with squiggly scissors. We wrote letters on them with permanent markers, like... Happy Mother's Day and I love you.”
Kassandra Keough enjoyed the day as well.
“They came when I was writing. We were making sunflower seeds for a Mother's Day present. We made them in the classroom. The teacher passed out papers of the week to write the number of how much the flowers grow. All the class wrote zero because the flowers hadn't grown yet. We got to decorate a bucket. I wrote on my bucket: I hope you have a good Mother's Day. I love you!”
Caldwell says that the garden project is a place based service learning project that encourages community involvement and environmental stewardship.
“It allows students the opportunity to develop and hone foundational skills doing something they love,” she said. “Whether it's planning, planting, harvesting, selling, composting or beekeeping.”
According to Caldwell it’s important to get the younger students involved in The Garden.
“They are the students we will eventually have in our middle and high school,” said Caldwell. “They will be our future gardeners.”