Beautifully Blossoming


Pea blossoming at Wildwood

Pea blossoming at Wildwood

Here we are almost halfway through June!  Only a couple weeks until SCHOOL IS OUT for SUMMER! An exciting time as our world gets more vibrant, more green, and more colorful each day.  Our peas at both Fort River and Wildwood are growing up and showing some remarkable color.  Observing each stage of the pea’s life cycle is a great complement to the 2nd great soil unit where students follow a plant’s life cycle from seed to fruit.  We started the peas 2 weeks earlier this year in hopes the students can REALLY see them and TASTE their fresh sweet sugar snap good-ness.

Spreading King Stropharia (or wine cap mushroom) spawn on top of newspaper (sheet mulching)

Spreading King Stropharia (or wine cap mushroom) spawn on top of newspaper (sheet mulching)


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A student scoops out the innoculated spawn (=woodchips infused with mushroom mycelium)

Our fun doesn’t stop with plants…Last week at Fort River Elementary, gourmet mushroom expert Willie Crosby joined us for a short lesson on mushrooms followed by the making of a mushroom woodchip bed on the inside of the pea bed!


This complements the plant science unit nicely specifically when we talk about decomposition.  With Ms. Monica Bhomik’s 2nd Grade class we learned and had fun with a new word…MYCELIUM.  This is the thread like  network of the mushrooms “root-like” structures that stretch far and wide under ground.  It is through the MYCELIUM mushrooms absorb nutrients.  Check out local mushroom expert and cultivator Willie Crosby at

We look forward to deepening our connections in the school curriculum and community to expand our activities in these school gardens which serve as blossoming OUTDOOR LIVING CLASSROOMS!  If you’d like to get involved, contact Sarah @ !

Interested in fun summer activities?  Join Grow Food Amherst for our Summer Workshop and Event Series at the Wednesday Kendrick Park Farmers Market! Featuring special activities for kids! Every Wednesday through the summer from 4-5 (Market runs 2-6!) at Kendrick Park in Amherst (across from Bertucci’s) SEE YOU THERE!

hoop sara KPM

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Spring is here!

2014-04-10 12.38.11After a long cold winter, it is finally time to break ground, wake up the garden and plant sugar snap peas! Last week, Sarah and Aaron lead the Wildwood and Fort River 2nd 2014-04-10 13.26.50grade classes in pea planting activities.  At Wildwood, We prepared the beds by raking away the leaves, adding more compost and tidying up our little garden space.  At Fort River, with Ms. Costello accompanied Mr. Lott’s and Ms. Bhowmik’s classes as we sheet mulched a new bed with the 2nd graders and some help of some parents!  We did an experiment: we soaked seeds for 2 days and planted them on one side of the bed to see if they would do better than the unsoaked seeds.


First, we shelled the peas from the pea pods we saved from last year’s crop, then planted, watered and gave our best wishes for happy growing! Working together, taking turns sharing tools and tasks, the planting was a success. At Wildwood, The 2nd graders and their teachers, Ms. Jag, Mrs. Applegate, and Ms. Condron will be making observations to capture the progress as the peas grow! Even the WW PGO wrote about it in their newsletter!

At Fort River, we’re watchi2014-04-17 14.45.16ng our garlic grow that we planted last fall, and will be planting carrots, lettuce and more! 2014-04-17 14.57.31

Now it’s time to plan, who will be here to help us care for these sweet little sugar snaps, greens, herbs, and other plantings throughout the summer months?  If you’re interested and would like to sign up, contact Sarah (!


Be sure to say hello to the peas when you’re driving by!


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Winter Root Taste Test Brings Excitement for Spring!

ImageIn late February, Sarah and Aaron visited the Wildwood School second grade classrooms with a bag full of local, colorful and delicious root vegetables from Winter Moon Farm. The second graders had a great time snacking on a few varieties of carrot and enthusiastically taste tested less familiar vegetables like watermelon radish and chiogga beat. After tasting each root veggie, there was a discussion about flavors and students categorized their samples as spicy, sweet, or bitter.

In addition to the taste test, we discussed what role each part of the plant played, with a focus on the function of roots. These second graders know their botany! Students were asked to identify other plant parts that we eat, such as lettuce/leaves and celery/stems. The lesson was closed with a vote on which of our sampled root veggies should be planted in the garden this spring. Carrots and watermelon radishes for the win!

Next week we return to team up with Wildwood second grade to sow seeds in the garden. Peas will be planted and students will be conducting observations on plant growth up to the end of the school year. Spring is here, friends!

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Taking advantage of cabin fever!

MAC logoAlthough there is still a foot of icy-grey-aged snow covering the ground, we can still grow ideas and do some garden planning!  Aaron and Sarah school garden coordinators, and Jane Costello, Fort River teacher, attended the Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Ludlow.  It was a great opportunity to hear the successes and struggles of other school gardens across the state, and come together to innovate, share and co-create this exciting school garden movement.

Aaron (left) and Sarah (right) at Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom conference March 2014

Aaron (left) and Sarah (right) at Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom conference March 2014

These events often inspire innovation and remind us that it sometimes takes steadfast patience and persistence in  growing  a school garden.  We value more than just a vegetable production space and are excited by all the opportunities to make our school gardens living classrooms where students can get their hands dirty and learn lessons from nature, apply their critical thinking, math, science and all kinds of skills gained in the classroom.  Due to the unique nature of each school community, gardens differ from school to school. Therefore, the process of their implementation, maintenance, and expansion all depend on involvement of the school community.

Help us spread the word! Tell your friends, parents, teachers that you support this project and contact Sarah ( if you’re interested in getting involved!  STAY TUNED, more to come!

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Breaking ground at Wildwood Elementary!

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Breaking ground at Wildwood Elementary School

Last Month, UMass group Permaculture in the Pioneer Valley teamed up with the 2nd Grade at Wildwood Elementary School to get their hands dirty both in and out of the classroom.  With support from Mangala Jagadeesh and 2nd grade teachers as well as school Principal Nick Yaffe, students and the Wildwood School Community are excited to continue expanding their permaculture garden, a perfect outdoor living classroom.

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The garden site

After some conversations among WW PGO members, teachers, and school community members, the site in front of the school in between the two apple trees (planted last fall) was selected to be our “ground-breaking” or “pilot” site.  Many factors must be considered when choosing a site. For example, access to water, walkable/usable distance from classrooms, distance from the road, safety, and slope just to name a few.

Since one of the goals of the garden reflected in the voices of the teachers is a space for outdoor hands-on learning, this site seemed to meet most of their needs best.  Great visibility and potential for expansion are also factors that made this site a great choice to start.

A Community Vision

In a community brainstorm event held at the end of April organized by UMass PC in PV group, some parents, teachers, and local/interested community members (and their kids!) joined us for a COMMUNITY BRAINSTORM EVENT. After a delicious meal featuring some delicious local food (thanks Arise Pizzeria, Simple Gifts Farm, and Wheatberry Cafe!), together we discussed the school garden of our dreams, outlining what would be growing, and what  it would be successful, sharing ideas and seeds to hopefully sow, water and watch grow.

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What’s next?

As we near summer vacation, the challenge of “who will maintain the garden?” is surely present.  For this reason, the garden will continue to be designed with low maintenance as a priority.  At this time, the two apple trees have been donned with sweet friends, or in permaculture terms “guilds”, companion perennials that will improve soil health. The bed of peas created with the 2nd grade will growth through July, with peas available for picking, be sure to pay a visit and snack on some sugar snaps while you’re there.

Come mid-July, the peas will be removed and the bed prepared to plant some crops for students to use in activities during the fall.  After meeting with the 2nd and 6th grade, there is much potential to continue plugging more classes into the garden, weaving school curriculum into hands-on activities in the garden.

Through frequent meetings with the classes involved, our PC in the PV group will do their best to facilitate community conversation to help the garden grow. The voices of students, teachers, school staff, and parents are what we are looking for. JOIN THE CONVERSATION! Share your ideas, thoughts, questions, and insights. The mission of PC in the PV is to grow more than just a garden…to build and stregnthen a vibrant community in the process.  STAY TUNED AND SPREAD THE WORD! :)

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June 11, 2013 · 1:28 am