The Mullica Township Schoolyard Garden (MTSG)
"Teaching kids how to feed themselves and how to live in a community responsibly is the center of an education."
In 2011, the non-profit green team, Sustainable Mullica (SM), and the Mullica Township Primary and Middle Schools (serving Pre-K to eight grades) joined to create the MTSG. This outdoor classroom includes the following features:
- Six 4’x 30’ raised beds for vegetables and herbs
- Tower Garden (hydroponic indoor garden)
- Fruit bush and tree areas
- Strawberry tower
- Flower beds
- Teaching site with tables and benches
- Shed filled with garden tools
- Irrigation system complete with sensor and timer
- Rain barrels
- Hoop houses used in spring and fall
The Professional Learning Community
A Professional Learning Community has been established with the Mullica Township Schools (MTS) and SM. Every MTS teacher received at least one garden lesson plan that is grade-level-appropriate. Several teachers have accepted our invitation to attend garden workshops and webinars alongside SM volunteers, who teach many lessons in the classrooms and in the garden. The ACE program meets after school during the school year and as a day program in July.
Our Abundant Garden
Our garden has delighted students, families, teachers, and volunteers in many ways:
- Greens and lettuces were grown indoors. Students enjoyed salads and smoothies.
- Spinach was served at an ACE Family Dinner Night.
- Third graders harvested spinach and strawberries and used them to prepare a healthy salad.
- Second graders made solar pizzas and refreshing mint lemonade.
- ACE students made and jarred delicious pickles.
- During garden tours, students from various grade levels enjoyed fresh berries, herbs, peas, beans, tomatoes, and peppers.
- Third-graders celebrated their crop with an Asparagus Festival.
- Potatoes were enjoyed during a second-grade potato lesson.
- A local chef visited the seventh graders and taught them how to make—and devour—delicious, healthy salsa.
- Students picked produce on garden tours and took it home for their families to enjoy.
- Summer ACE students picked produce and used the fresh ingredients in their cooking class.
Environmental Learning Opportunities
Our garden not only provides us with delicious, healthy, student-grown food, but it also serves as an authentic outdoor classroom with endless learning opportunities. The following are actions and lessons taught:
- Only organic gardening methods are practiced and taught.
- Students are involved with all aspects of gardening, from soil testing in the spring to preparing beds for winter in the fall.
- Students are taught the advantages of our sustainably harvested, local-cedar, raised beds.
- Only earth-friendly products are used for cleaning after food preparation.
- Reusable bags, baskets, dishes and flatware are used.
- Compost from our garden and a neighborhood site is used to amend our plots.
- NJ native berry bushes are planted.
- Students plant seeds in pots they make from recycled newspaper.
- Seeds from plants are saved and planted the following season.
- Pests are controlled organically through solar repellers, hand picking, and Safer® Brand organic spray.
Protecting Our Natural Resources
- Bird houses provide bird-watching opportunities.
- Rain barrels collect water for the garden.
- Outdoor furniture is made from recycled plastic.
Supporting NJ Core Curriculum Standards
- Students are taught journal writing to record garden changes, and poetry to inspire creativity.
- Students are encouraged to read and research topics such as plants, nature, ecology, sustainability, and garden techniques.
- Healthy eating and lifestyles are practiced and encouraged.
- Measuring is taught when planting, making seed tapes, and during food preparation.
- Students create and share recipes and garden stories.
So much has been accomplished in the MTSG. The MTS, SM, the Township of Mullica, Community Members, AtlantiCare, NJ AmeriCorps Ambassadors, Stockton College, Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, and many local businesses have come together to improve student nutrition, provide spontaneous learning, and work cooperatively on real, hands-on projects. We are committed to the health and welfare of our children through this powerful and worthwhile endeavor. Good things are growing in Mullica Township!
"…every child in this world needs to have a relationship with the land...to know how to nourish themselves...and to know how to connect with the community around them."