By Tammy Pullen and Brynn Charest
We have had a busy couple of years implementing agriculture at the Atwood Primary School. It all began with a Maine Ag grant to create 12 raised garden beds. Some of the staff and children came together with Mr. Colby and we used tarps to mix compost for the beds. Each teacher had their own raised bed to plant towards a theme or things that their children were interested in. Mrs. Pullen and Mrs. Charest planted a pizza garden that spring and the following fall they enjoyed english muffin pizzas with fresh basil, onions, and zucchini. This really got our wheels turning and we kept asking ourselves, “What else can we do to show children the concept of food to table?”
That fall Mrs. Pullen also brought two hens in a chicken tractor to school so the children were able to care for live animals, collect eggs, and make something with those eggs. The chickens were enjoyed by the whole school and different classrooms took turns caring for them. The chickens visit us in the fall and spring when the weather is on the mild side.
In the spring, to go along with our seasons unit, Mrs. Charest and Mrs. Pullen’s class tap trees along the nature trail by Atwood and learn about how maple sap is collected and made into syrup. Mr. Colby has been an integral part of always helping out and bringing spare tools for when ours don’t work. The children have thoroughly enjoyed his presence during these activities. The culminating event is that the children get to take a small container of maple syrup home to their families to share and sometimes we are able to go on a field trip to the Bacon Farm to watch them actually boil down the sap.
Our most recent endeavor was purchasing two tower gardens with another Maine Ag grant. We started planting the seeds in wooly pods after February vacation. In two weeks the sprouts were ready to be put into the 6 foot, lit towers that hold 20 gallons of water. The children are so amazed after the weekends at how much the plants have grown. Mrs. Charest tied measuring tomato plants into her math lesson and then created a graph. We have read many stories about vegetables and gardening and talk constantly about eating healthy foods with only a few ingredients. We have harvested lettuce and basil three times and have enjoyed it as a Friday special snack. We had so much basil that we made pesto to go along with Mrs. Charest’s homemade bread and watched Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs as a treat right before April vacation. As we write this we notice that the tomato plants are almost touching the ceiling and we need to think of another creative recipe for the basil. Also, it’s almost time to hatch chicks in Mrs. Pullen’s room. Maybe, another round of english muffin pizzas, but made into breakfast pizza with eggs?
We hatched 6 chicks this spring in an incubator in the classroom! The children charted on a calendar when we set eggs, candling (holding up a light to the egg to see the veins and then later on the chick developing, lockdown (where the eggs are taken out of the turner and just laid on their side in the incubator), and lastly when they were projected to hatch. After candling the eggs for the second time, the children created a grid and legend which showed which eggs were developing, what they were, and where they were located on the turner. We ended up hatching 2 Cornish and 4 white crested black polish chickens in our classroom!
Atwood Primary was also the recipient of a ReTreeUs grant which resulted in 12 orchard trees being planted on campus on May 9th. We now have apple, pear, plum and peach trees! The orchard is growing nicely with buds for the children to see. We are watering the trees at least once a week.