The Sippican School Garden Club has been awarded a $2,000 grant from the Whole Kids Foundation to fund installation of a greenhouse on the school campus. This grant was supplemented by a $2,000 matching contribution from the Marion Garden Group, $1,000 from a donated discretionary fund, and $500 from another anonymous donor to fully fund the project. The Whole Kids Foundation also supplied seeds, equipment and educational support materials. Electrical installation for lighting is being donated by local contractor Randy Parker and irrigation by Heads Up Irrigation LTD. Installation is scheduled for early summer.
The cedar greenhouse is self-tending and requires no additional power supply to maintain temperature and watering systems. A solar-charged 12V battery powers the roof opening mechanism and the automatic watering benches. The greenhouse will have supplemental electrical wiring for germination warming mats and lighting.
Headed by retired teacher Diane Cook, and through sustained support of volunteers and donors over the past 10 years, the Sippican School Community Garden Group has installed irrigated raised beds, fencing, tables and a shed housing tools and supplies. Master Gardener Valerie Knott has volunteered expertise throughout the development of the physical garden and program and provides instruction in the gardening classes along with Sippican School teacher, Hannah Moore. The Whole Kids Foundation grant proposal was initiated and prepared by Sippican School parent, Jennifer Jones.
The goal of the addition of the greenhouse is to increase food systems literacy and promote healthy eating among students and their families. The grant enables the Garden Club to extend its growing season from six to nine months, potentially doubling the number of annual student hours spent in the program from 1,062 to 2,210. The garden program serves both an after school and summer garden club, as well as programs for all Sippican students during the school year that integrate math, science, art and other curricula. Diane Cook “hopes that the school will enjoy many hands-on experiences in the new addition to the school garden during the school day hours – many possibilities with a terrific curriculum provided by Whole Foods’ Whole Kids Foundation.” The greenhouse takes the children into a sensory-rich, self-contained ecosystem where they learn about plants as whole systems understanding the impact of physical factors and climate.
Produce from the garden helps local families in need, is used in the school cafeteria through tasting demonstrations, and is available to children who participate in the Garden Club and the adjacent YMCA program to take home to their families. It also involves the greater community by bringing in student volunteers from Tabor Academy, the Marion Garden Club, Council on Aging, and guest speakers on topics such as beekeeping, organic farming and floristry.
Sippican School has seen an increase over the past several years in students eligible for free or reduced price lunches. The garden presents the topic of nutrition in a positive, objective, and fun context that is supported through its integration with science, math and other curricula. The garden empowers students to take pride in their health and share their knowledge. “Thanks to Diane Cook and so many others, the garden is currently a highly sought after offering to our students. It is a place where hands-on learning is the expectation and community sharing is nurtured. It is exciting to see it further blossom into a program that will be able to extend its reach into the academic school day through a lengthened growing season. The greenhouse will provide so many more chances for children to share their learning across their own homes and the community,” commented Lyn Rivet, Principal of Sippican Elementary School.