BRATTLEBORO — A group of energetic teachers, parents and students joined together to build raised beds at the Brattleboro Area Middle School (BAMS) in mid-May — revitalizing the tradition of school gardens.
BAMS teachers Jess Montenieri and Elyse Wadsworth wanted to see more opportunities for students to engage in outdoor learning. Reflecting on the past year, Elyse noted that “it’s been difficult to see students spending so much time on Zoom with very little opportunity to move around, go outside and just be kids. We saw the raised beds as a great way to get students outside, even if it’s just for daily watering and check-in.”
Jess and Elyse found energetic partners on the newly formed BAMS Leadership Team. Parents Amit Sharma and Sheila Humphreys said they were thrilled to see some of the strong Farm to School programming in elementary schools make their way into the middle school.
More BAMS parents, Jacob Leach and Sam Schneski, offered to pitch in with some carpentry know-how, connections with local sawmills, and some donated supplies. Quickly, this team formed a plan to build new raised beds on the campus, the first step towards a more robust outdoor education program for the school.
Parents, staff and a few students gathered on a cool spring day, ready to get to work. Over the next couple of hours, they built four new raised beds, filled each bed with compost donated from Windham Solid Waste Management District and Renaud’s Tree Care, and planted starts donated from Walker Farm. A couple of weeks later, seventh-grade students decorated the beds with their artwork. The beds now feature kale, brussels sprouts, beets, carrots, and many different types of herbs.
The team planted primarily fall harvest crops — meaning easy summer maintenance and a bountiful garden ready to welcome students back in September. Jill Kelley, the Brattleboro Enrichment Activities for Middle School director, also joined the build day and plans to incorporate maintaining the beds into student activities during summer camp. Next year, students will try to prepare the vegetables a few different ways, experimenting with the new foods and finding the dish that is just right.
BAMS Principal, Keith Lyman, helped construct the beds and is excited to see more opportunities to get kids learning outdoors in the coming years.
“We are always looking for new ways to engage students and families in our school community, and I am so proud of the work everyone has done to begin this work,” Lyman said. “The more we can get kids outside learning through the world around them, the more likely we will have happy and engaged students. The gardens are beautiful, and the student artwork made the plain wooden walls come to life! I look forward to the fruits (or vegetables) of our labor!”