Yarmouth garden feeds students' appetite for learning

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YARMOUTH — What started as a way to provide students with a healthy, homegrown school lunch, has evolved into a learning device for the community and the Yarmouth School district.

Now in its third year, the Yarmouth School Garden has been used to teach students math, science, history, biology and ecology.

Becki Schreiber, director of the Yarmouth school nutrition program, said that in addition to growing vegetables and flowers, the garden, located behind the Yarmouth Elementary School now has a butterfly garden and compost area.

“I feel like it is a ‘if you build it, they will come,’ situation,” she said of the evolution of the garden over the past three years. “It’s part cafeteria, part classroom.”

Meg Barbara, a master gardener who has been involved in the garden since its creation, helped about 100 third grade students build a butterfly garden last week. The students planted annuals, perennials and vegetables that will attract different varieties of butterflies, and become a place for them to lay eggs, form cocoons and transform.

The students will be able to study the butterfly’s life cycle next year, Barbara said.

“We made sure to plant items that would flower through the entire growing season,” she said. “Then the students can study the butterflies like others study birds.”

In addition to the butterfly garden, rising senior Andrew DiMarco, built four compost bins for the school district as part of his Eagle Scout project.

Schreiber said the Green Voices Society, the high school’s environmental club, donated $1,000 to the compost bin project, and the school nutrition program donated $250.

“The bins are very impressive, and add another level to the garden project,” she said.

Sheri Oliva, master gardener and school garden coordinator, said the compost project is another way to integrate the garden into the curriculum.

“There is a science to cooking the materials,” Oliva said. “It takes care of a lot of garbage at the schools and will save us money in compost materials for the garden. We will generate healthy compost, and educate kids at the same time”

Schreiber started the garden project. Oliva calls her the glue that holds the garden together.

Students from the high school and a senior from North Yarmouth Academy have worked to prepare the garden for this growing season by tilling the soil by hand. Oliva said eight teachers have plots this year, and have recruited parents to help maintain them over the summer.

A 4H group will work on a raised bed and strawberry project, and Boy Scout troops in the area will use the garden to complete projects with the help of David Lieth, a new master gardener. 

“All these projects contain multiple layers,” Oliva said. She said they fulfill educational, recreational and sustainable projects at the same time.

This summer, Schreiber will plans to construct a hoophouse to grow vegetables in all seasons. She applied for and received a grant through the Casco Bay Healthy Partnerships for $750. The hoophouse will cost about $900 plus lumber and a door, she said. Money from a fourth grade pottery project will cover the additional money.

Oliva is excited about the hoophouse. She said it will allow teachers and gardeners to produce vegetables throughout the school year, not just in the summer and fall.

Schreiber said people work in the gardens on Fridays mornings throughout the summer. Residents, parents and students are encouraged to stop by and volunteer.

“This garden has become a milestone,” Schreiber said. “It’s very exciting to see how much its grown.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net

Sidebar Elements

The third grade team worked last week to build a butterfly garden in the Yarmouth School Garden. The garden will allow teachers the space to teach students about butterfly life-cycles. Master gardener Meg Barbera, center, showed the students which plants best attract butterflies, and where they will lay their eggs. The students will study the metamorphosis next school year.

The fourth grade team created garden-inspired pottery as a creative service learning project to help benefit the Yarmouth School Garden. The students worked with local artist Kat Gillies to create the pottery and made about $300 in sales to help purchase the new hoophouse. The artists from left include Ellie Purgavie, Lucia Bolles, Violett Leith, Kirsten Thomas, Maggie Gunville and Leah Weinburg.