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New Garden Provides Interactive Learning for Botelle Children

Sixth grade students at Botelle plant their first crop in one of the raised beds.

Sixth grade students at Botelle plant their first crop in one of the new raised beds. Photo by Peter Michelsen.

By Ellen Walker-Savoye

When an enlightened school administration, enthusiastic parents, imaginative teachers and a supportive community come together, exceptional projects can emerge. Such a project is the Norfolk Community Garden at Botelle School.
Located in a sunny spot behind the school, easily accessible to students and teachers, the garden was built by parent volunteers. It presently consists of 12 raised beds filled with organic soil for the students to plant. Four more beds will eventually be built for the PTO garden committee to plant with heirloom species and other beds around the periphery for the Norfolk community to be involved with as well, but allowing teachers an outlet for interactive learning was the main purpose of the project.
Teachers were invited to suggest how they might tie the garden in with their lesson plans. The third grade teacher, whose students study Native American culture, recommended a Three Sisters Garden, interplanting corn, pole beans and squash. The children learn how these three crops provided a sustainable system for Native Americans. The corn provides a natural pole for bean vines to climb, while the beans provide nitrogen to the following year’s corn. The squash vines shade emerging weeds and prevent soil moisture from evaporating.
The fourth grade teacher will use the garden to analyze why particular foods are grown in certain regions of the United States. They will study how irrigation systems sustain the growth and development of different crops and will then plant kale and brussel sprouts, which grow well in Norfolk’s cooler fall weather.
Fifth graders will tie their curriculum on Colonial Times to the garden by planting beans for drying, root crops for storing and herbs grown by the Colonists. There is also hope that the garden will inspire them to express themselves during Poetry Month in April.
Conceived and built by Botelle parents, the garden was paid for by sponsors including local businesses, a grant from the Norfolk Children’s Foundation, a grant from the Green Pastures Fund (a fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation) and sales from personalized engraved bricks sold by the PTO. Sponsors will be recognized by individual plaques placed at various locations throughout the garden. The bricks will form a terrace at the center of the garden, surrounded by benches and will act as a central meeting area for teaching and learning.
The irrigation system, also designed and installed by volunteers, is near completion and will have an automatic timer to ensure proper hydration throughout summer months. A kitchen garden has already been planted, meeting all food safety standards, which will allow the produce to be served in the school’s cafeteria when harvested in the fall.
The Botelle Community Garden will require maintenance by volunteers throughout the summer months and continue to provide a place for community gathering and connection to the environment for both children and adults.

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