A number of programs across TST BOCES are working together to revitalize an area behind Smith School by creating a Homestead Garden.
The garden was established several years ago but has been largely left untended and become overgrown. Smith School classroom aide Lisa Eccleston helped organize a homestead garden committee open to all of TST BOCES. Along with the help of Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Smith School students, the garden has already been transformed.
The CTE Outdoor Recreation Services class has helped clean out the garden and till the soil. Smith School classes have started planting vegetables and helped clear out weeds. The garden presents a hands-on learning opportunity that can incorporate elements of science, math or other class subjects. Working in the garden can also help provide a therapeutic benefit to students while giving them an opportunity to work on a project outside of the classroom.
“Our students are just as tender as those vegetable plants they planted in the ground,” Lisa Eccleston said. “They help nurture and care for the plants, just as the plants help our students relax and let go of what they are struggling with. Learning to love and care for even the smallest of Mother Nature’s creations helps our students grow and develop.”
Josh Dolan, a food gardening outreach coordinator from Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), has done multiple classes with students in Smith School to teach about how to sustain a garden and done seed strip activities for students to prepare seeds for planting. The CCE has also helped advise the homestead garden committee about how to establish the garden and ways to acquire the materials needed.
Grants are being prepared to support the project and many supplies have already been donated. Forms for raised beds were donated by a local construction firm and mulch has been donated by the city of Ithaca. Support also comes from Director of Exceptional Education, Regional Alternative School and Alternative Programs David Barr and Director of Facilities David Pitcher. Lumber has been supplied by TST BOCES Environmental Education.
Smith School students will work in the garden during Circle of Courage day on May 15 and will continue to help tend the garden throughout the remainder of the school year and during summer classes. Moving forward, the garden presents many learning opportunities that can benefit students in any of the programs at TST BOCES in unique ways.