Mackrille harvests crops from teaching garden
Mackrille harvests crops from teaching garden
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WEST HAVEN, Oct. 8, 2013 — Having planted vegetables and herbs last month in a teaching garden funded by the American Heart Association, the Edith E. Mackrille Elementary School community began harvesting its crops Oct. 7.

The fun continued the next day when food services staffers got involved and showed the kids how to use the plants for pesto and soup.

The American Heart Association had donated numerous raised beds, established plants from a local farm, gardening tools, soil and a camera to document the growth and plans to make anther donation of seeds and growing vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, this spring.

“For this first round, I think the kids learned a lot. They liked the responsibility of watering the gardens. They’d pass by the courtyard, and tell their teachers the plants looked dry and that they needed watering,” Principal Judith Drenzek said. “It also gave them an awareness of farming and the amount of equipment and work it takes to grow good food.”

On Monday, Oct. 7, youngsters came out class by class to help with the harvest in the courtyard that holds the beds, trimming plants and sorting them in buckets. They especially liked smelling the bucket of chives, with many wanting a turn to take a sniff and describe the scent. Some even shared stories of gardens at home or at their grandparents’ homes as they received help from teachers and two parents, Allison Forgette and Debby Crutchfield.

“They were really excited to come here, and they’re interested in what they’re doing. The kids can relate because some of them have gardens at home,” said third-grade teacher Jo-Ann Mondo.

Mackrille is one of two schools in Connecticut to be chosen to receive a teaching garden. Although the American Heart Association has been spreading the program throughout other states for the past few years, this is the first time it has brought the idea to Connecticut, a representative said.

Association employees helped Mackrille assemble the raised beds last month and were happy to see how engaged students were in the project. The association representative said the food service program’s involvement is also valuable to the lesson.

According to Drenzek, some plants, such as the cabbage, weren’t yet ready to be plucked and will have a few more weeks to grow. Students may be given some crops to take home, and teachers will have a chance to use them in the classroom during lessons that discuss plants and gardening.

Parents will have a chance to check out the garden later this month during parent-teacher conferences.

Contact: Communications Director Susan Misur, 203-937-4300 X7114;