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   Financial & In-kind Support
 Hasbro/United Way Town of Westerly  Deb Weitzma 
 Wilcox Park  Hillandale Farm URI Master Gardeners
Westerly Education Endowment Fund  Save the Bay  McQuades Ace
 Rocky's Tree Service  United Builders Supply  Pellegrino Landscaping

GROW AND GO SEEK
COMMUNITY GARDEN


Tower Street School Community Center has been actively involving children, staff and the community in plant-based education since the spring of 2010. Our project started with the belief that students, staff and the community should have the time to be reflective of their future and to recognize and know the world around them. 

Grow and Go Seek Garden provides free fresh produce for students and families at Tower Street School Community Center, the Supper Table community dinner, Jonnycake Center, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and community members that visited our farm stand.  We know that gardening is an excellent way to promote critical thinking about environmental policies, agricultural strategies, and consumer trends that threaten the Earth’s ecosystems. In addition, our students are more likely to acquire an appreciation for the varieties of vegetables they grow than students who do not. As these children take their new interests and knowledge home to their families, they can potentially help to inspire the Westerly community to move toward the goals of environmental sustainability and more healthful eating.


 

GARDEN NEWS
 


Spring 2016

Spring has finally sprung here at Tower Street!! We started off our gardening this year by transplanting Geraniums. We will take care of these plants until they have flowered, after which they will be planted around Westerly. The kids loved getting their hands dirty and kept sticking their hands in the warm dirt!

 

 

We also seeded down Kale, lettuce, and Peas to be grown at the Hillendale Farm Greenhouse until they are ready to be planted in the grow and go seek garden!



 

Fall 2015

 

During the fall we continued to Harvest things in the garden such as tomatoes, peppers, green beans, eggplant, cucumbers, and tomatillos. Most of the time the produce didn’t even make it out of the garden, as the students often ate them or stuffed them into their own backpack to take home with them! Over the 2015 season we collected over 750 lbs of produce!



   


We also prepped the garden for winter during the fall season. We pulled weeds, laid down more mulch in pathways, tested soil for the spring and put down winter cover crops, such as winter rye,  that will make the garden more productive next year.

 

 

Our big event in the garden during the fall was our family spud night, where we harvested our potato crop. The kids got right in on the action with digging up the potatoes, being careful not to split any of them. We had an awesome time and harvested 65 pounds of potatoes! We then set them to dry in the greenhouse before being used. The kids especially enjoyed a long-requested mashed potato snack!


 


Summer 2015

 

2015 marked the fourth summer of the Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative. This year we had 60 campers over six weeks focusing on learning about sustainability and healthy living. Gardening was a key part of this program.

 

Gardening is a lot of hard work and one of the many tasks we did this summer in the garden was watering. With the high temperatures and low rainfall this summer, we watered often during the summer program.

 

 

We also installed drip and soaker hoses over some of the beds to aid in watering. This type of system allows for even, consistent watering over a larger area that doesn’t get the leaves of the plants wet.

 

We also harvested produce weekly that was used by building programs, families, and staff. We harvested things such as cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, green beans, herbs, zucchini, strawberries, and melons.

 

 

After Harvesting we would weigh all of our produce to keep track of how much we had harvested and to secretly practice our math skills. Over the summer we collected 236 pounds of produce!!

 

 

We used some produce when our community partner SNAP Ed with the University of Rhode Island came to visit. SNAP Ed taught us about nutrition, cooking, and the importance of local foods. We utilized garden vegetables in cooking things like salsa, guacamole, zucchini muffins, flavored water infusions, and many more.

 

The garden is also a great space for building with natural materials. During building class students were encourage to build new structures in the garden and share them with their fellow campers.

 

     IMG_2120.JPG IMG_3097[1].JPGbuilding4.jpg

One group of campers created a booklet of how different plant species grow in the garden such as strawberries or watermelon as part of a long-term garden project. This helped them to fully appreciate their work in the garden.

 

Another group of campers did research on each plant species in the garden, learning about how it grows, what sort of conditions it prefers, etc. Here is an example of one of these projects about eggplant done by Sierra.

 

Fact 1: The first fact about eggplant is not only interesting but surprising for many people as well. In fact, people eat the fruit of the eggplant in a cooked form and consider it a vegetable, but it is a berry.

 

Fact 2: There are various names of eggplant fruit according to the particular regional languages. However, its most common names are Brinjal and Baingan.

 

Fact 3: The reason behind the name of this plant is not new but dates back to the 18th century. At that time its size was just like a hen’s egg with a white or yellowish color.

 

Fact 4: The taste of the eggplant fruit is bitter in its raw form which becomes pleasing in its cooked form.

 

Fact 5: A very strange fact about the eggplant fruit is that it belongs to the family of tobacco. It contains nicotine alkaloids.

 


 



Spring 2015
 

Spring was a little slow to start this year, with some cooler winter temperatures lingering on into April and May. However, Garden preparations were fully under way! Students from many programs within the building helped out in getting the garden all ready for planting with tasks such as pulling weeds, adding compost, tilling the soil, and mulching the garden paths.

 

 

We also helped with Geranium planting that would later beautify the town of Westerly. The students enjoyed planting them and watering them for the weeks to come.

  

   

 

Once all the beds were prepped for planting, the students loved planting in the garden! We planted many types of vegetables and fruits such as lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, peas, herbs, strawberries, zucchini, peppers, eggplant and many more. All produce will be used by the building programs, families of the students, or donated to the Jonnycake center in Westerly.
 


Some harvesting has already happened as well for things like lettuce and kale! Many programs in the building made Kale chips for snack. Other produce was donated to the Supper Table. Some of the students enjoy sampling directly from the garden!

 

     

 

This spring we updated our greenhouse with sturdy siding and a ventilation system. The ventilation system allows for better climate control inside the house, in turn creating a better yield from the plants inside.

 

We are experimenting this year with straw bale planting! This method is designed to take less space and resources to grow vegetables, and is ideal in urban settings. First we set up the bales around the building. Then for two weeks we watered them and added nitrogen so that the bales would decompose and be suitable for planting. Soon they are ready for the vegetables!!
 

    

 

 

Lastly, the students love playing in the garden area, and to that end we added a culvert to the garden area for playing in. The students love to climb under it and jump between the tree cookies placed around it!
 




 


Fall 2014
            

             

Westerly High School Students built a second shed for the garden area. This has been helpful in providing space for our growing collection of garden tools and materials. 























 



Summer 2014

For the third year we participated in the Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative. This year 48 campers enjoyed an action packed six weeks filled with fun, hands-on learning focused on healthy and sustainable living.  We partnered with Save the Bay, Westerly Community Yoga Center and Wilcox Park and Library.

        

 


2013-14 School Year
 
  Fall can be a very productive time in the garden and '13 was a great year for Grow and Go Seek.  We expanded the early childhood program to three teachers and fourteen families, we built a new 3-bin composting system, and received two generous grants from the Westerly Education Endowment Fund (WEEF) and  Whole Foods Whole Kids Foundation to build a greenhouse and pergola on our site.  An additional WEEF grant allowed us to plant a butterfly garden and become a certified Monarch Waystation. In the spring, Save the Bay fully funded and built a rain garden in our outdoor classroom area. 
                                  

   
            


Summer 2013

The second summer of the United Way/Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative!  The number of participants increased from 30 to 40, thanks to a the support from a wonderful group of community volunteers.  We continued to focus on healthy living and community engagement.  Students participated in yoga, theater, art, gardening and cooking classes integrated with math, literacy, technology and Spanish.  Each week students visited Hillandale Farm to experience day to day life on a working farm.  Several community service projects were developed, including making toys for shelter animals, a car wash and a walk-a-thon to raise money for local non-profits.  A lot of time was spent in Grow and Go Seek Garden, planting, tending, and harvesting vegetables, as well as, measuring, documenting, creating and exploring.
 


With refurbished iphones, students took photos of garden activities, both documenting the growth and using an artistic eye to capture the beauty.  A child's view of the garden: swallowtail butterfly on a day lily, the bean teepee, and a golden orange. 



The best thing about growing vegetables is getting to eat them!  Three days a week, students prepared a healthy snack with ingredients from the garden for the rest of the program.  Snacks included, veggie sushi, rainbow stir fry, hummus, salsa, pizza, grilled vegetables and much more.
Eggplant parmesan and home made tomato sauce and bread sticks are seen below!.

 

Spring 2013

Spring is the most exciting time of year for the garden but there is also a lot of work to be done!  We had many volunteers of all ages come out for our spring work party to help us get our garden back into shape.  The windy winter had caused damage throughout the garden.  

There were beds to clean-up, mulch and compost to spread, a shed to organize and structures to resurrect.  Luckily, we had many helpers and many hands make light work  :)




A nice, clean garden ready to be planted!

One of the most exciting additions the garden this spring was our new Sand Pit!!  A huge THANK YOU to Alan Peck for bringing us the logs and helping us put it all together.  We love it!

 
 
Another highlight of this Spring was the first ever MUD DAY at Tower Street Community Center.  On a warm April day during school vacation, the Out-of-School-Time Program along with members of the community enjoyed a day of playing in, jumping in, sliding it, building with, painting with, cooking with, and getting covered in MUD! 


Winter 2012

We worked together to prep the garden for the winter months.  Covering the beds with straw to add nutrients to the soil.  We planted arugula and kale in the hoop house.  We also built some cold frames with recycled windows so we could grow more vegetables.  We planted kale and kohlrabi in the cold frames.


Over the winter we also started a new early childhood program at Tower Street.  The 3 and 4 year olds in the program spent lots of time discovering and learning in the garden and the outdoor classroom.  Each day, no matter the weather, we explored the environment outside. 


Fall 2012
 
 
Fall came and our garden continued to flourish.  
 

 
 
We harvested a lot of produce to donate to the Johnny Cake Center.  We made veggie soup for our family engagement dinner with the carrots and potatoes we grew ourselves.
 

 

We made fresh tomato sauce and lots of kale chips for snack and enjoyed spending time in the garden.


Summer 2012
 
Through a generous grant from the United Way and Hasbro, Tower Street was able to offer an eight week summer program focusing on sustainable and healthy living.  The goal of the learning initiative was to decrease summer learning loss, a problem many children face, especially those from lower income families.  Students, ranging from ages six through eleven, spent the summer learning about healthy living through hands-on learning.  The healthy living theme was integrated into all the classes, including yoga, spanish, art, theatre, community mapping, cooking and and gardening.   We visited Hillandale Farm two days a week, went on field trips around the community on fridays and spent the rest of the time at the Tower Street School Community Center  and  in the Grow and Go Seek garden and outdoor classroom.























The garden grew...  We harvested lots of vegetables to eat, cook with and share with our families and community. 













A tree was cut down in Wilcox Park and we were able to get a big section of it.  It made a great table!

 

 
The garden is a great place for picnics but also for art.  We spent time throughout the summer making wishing flags,  a "scare bat," painting and nature journaling in our outdoor classroom.   We also made a weather station and a worm hotel.
 

 

 
 
Spring 2012
 
When spring arrived we knew we had a lot of work to do.  The garden area was like a blank slate.  The town cleared the hillside for us and unearthed a beautiful rock and hill for us to transform into our garden and natural play area.













The students and staff at the after school program spent some time thinking about what they wanted in their garden.  We came up with lots of great ideas like a fish pond and fire pit, a teepee and even a zip line.  Here are a few of the students’ drawings.


We all worked together to mulch the pathways and build more beds.  To make our pathways, we first put down cardboard and then a thick layer of wood chips to stop the weeds from growing through.


























We took some of the great ideas from our sketches and integrated them into our garden classroom.  A log circle was created for a meeting area.  We also made a teepee out of bamboo that we could play in.













The entire Tower Street Community was involved in several garden workdays.  With all the help we
were able to plant a lot of vegetables and add some new beds.













There was a lot of kale growing in the hoop house.  We harvested it and made kale chips for snack.













Doing homework outside it so much better!


Winter 2011

Throughout the winter, we continued to learn about the garden. We learned about vermi-composting, making compost using worms, decomposing vegetable scraps, bedding and worm castings. Our pet worms, called red wrigglers, eat lots of veggie scraps and turn them into nutritious soil to add to our garden.  Sometimes their castings are called “Black Gold” because it is so valuable to gardeners. 

We also learned about herbs and how to make cuttings. Cuttings are when you propagate a new plant using a piece of a “mother” plant.  We tried to start sage, oregano, lavender, and rosemary from plants in the garden.

 
 
Fall 2011 

In October 2011, we began expanding our garden at Tower Street School Community Center.  The first addition we made to the garden area was building compost bins.  We started collecting vegetable scraps from the cafeteria to add to our pile. Composting is the process of layering organic matter (food scraps, straw, dried leaves, etc.) and letting it decompose to create an organic, nutrient-rich soil amendment.  The finished compost, which is full of beneficial nutrients, is added to the garden beds so we do not have to use fertilizers.

We also built a hoop house and grew arugula and kale throughout the winter. Hoop Houses retain the heat from the sun and allow for year-round growing by using a plastic covering over a garden bed.  We built ours with PVC pipes and heavy duty plastic on a 2x4 frame.

 

 

 


 

 

 

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