Easton Courier Article

Student-Created Garden Unveiled at Samuel Staples Elementary School

By Daniella Baldino

Someone likened it to an old-fashioned barn raising. For months, Samuel Staples Elementary School staff, students, parents, local farmers and community members offered their labor and expertise to build a garden at the school.

The school’s “Seeds of Change” Garden Club began the project in January under the direction of third-grade teachers Courtney Carroll and Tara Brophy.

“We started the Seeds of Change club last January, and within a week of sending home a flier to parents, we had 110 kids sign up for the club,” said Carroll.

Every garden starts with a seed. In this case, students used milk jugs to grow seeds. The students used the winter sowing technique to begin the process. They turned milk jugs into little greenhouses by planting seeds inside and taping them shut. They left the jugs to mature outside before moving them into the garden.

The school had a “vine” cutting on Sept. 14 to introduce and open the new garden. All students, in addition to Garden Club members, are welcome to use the garden as an outdoor classroom .

“I mostly like the sunflowers,” said fifth-grade student Olivia Sadowska.

Jean Stetz-Puchalski, with Easton’s Garden Club, helped facilitate planning sessions, attended club meetings, and helped Carroll and Brophy get in touch with the right people, like Jake Conover of Silverman’s Farm, Patty Popp of Sport Hill Farm and Shaggy Coos.

“We believe in giving back to the community, and these extraordinary teachers were looking to get this project started,” said Stetz-Puchalski. “Having been very involved in agriculture and as a Master Gardener and composter, I felt I could be in service by helping bring the project together.”

The Easton Learning Foundation donated a $6,000 grant to Staples to build the fence around the garden, put up the shed and purchase supplies.

“I think it’s such a nice resource for the school to have this available for kids to get outside, especially for the younger kids to teach them how things grow, to be in a farming community and get to participate in this.” said Karen O’Brien, an Easton Learning Foundation board member.

The local Eagle Scout Troop helped put the wiring around the fence along with laying the mulch and garden beds. The Aspetuck Land Trust put in the split rail fence for the garden.

Noah Beninati, a Joel Barlow High School freshman, built the arbor over the entrance to the garden for his Eagle Scout project.

Over the course of the summer, many families stopped by to do some weeding and bring back some fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs.

About once a week throughout the summer, Carroll and Brophy visited the garden and frequently donated vegetables to the Grow A Row program, which gathered local produce at Shaggy Coos Farm and distributed it to local seniors confined to their homes.

“The way that families came out, and local farmers and the Eastern Learning Foundation, and everybody just contributed their expertise and their time, it just took on a life of its own,” said Brophy.

The members of last year’s school Garden Club closed Thursday’s ceremony by performing a song that they sang at every “Seeds of Change” meeting, entitled, “The Garden Song.”

This year The Garden Club is available to third- and fifth-grade students and will have a fall session that goes until January and a spring session that lasts from February until the end of the year.