Shelton School Dedicates Community Garden

At the dedication of Shelton Intermediate School’s new community garden Wednesday, Headmaster Ken Saranich just couldn’t resist making a horticultural reference.

“Ironically for a community garden, this whole thing started as a little seed, and it’s grown,” Saranich said.

The way he and others at the school told the story, the idea for a community garden germinated slowly over the past few years and is now ready to bear a variety of different educational fruits.

Jane Cheetham, chairperson of the PTO garden committee, said she first mentioned the idea to Saranich a few years ago.

Saranich said the idea was kept alive by several members of the faculty until it reached seventh-grade science teacher Eric Wolf, who moved the project forward last year.

Wolf and Saranich wrote a grant proposal to the Valley Community Foundation and received $1,500 to get the garden started.

At the dedication ceremony Wednesday, Mayor Mark Lauretti personally pledged to provide more funding for the garden in the coming year.

State Sen. Kevin Kelly presented a citation from the Connecticut General Assembly recognizing the school for its gardening achievement.

PHOTO: Fred MusanteSuperintendent Freeman Burr noted that school gardens such as Shelton Intermediate’s are a trend among schools across the state and that they help to make school lunches healthier.

Saranich said the garden fits the school’s educational curriculum in numerous ways. Science teachers can use it to show students the biological life cycle of plants, for instance, and math teachers can teach students how to calculate the area available for crops.

The garden fits the schools’ values curriculum by teaching students how to work together, he added. Special education students may learn gardening as a life skill, students can write stories and essays about their gardening experiences in their language arts classes, and the school’s culinary arts program can use the produce from the garden to learn how to cook food.

Sodexho, the school lunch vendor, has promised to use fresh food from the garden for school lunches now and then. Saranich said when the children taste the difference from using fresh, locally grown vegetables, it will teach them a lesson on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

And the school’s award-winning video club has produced a documentary video that was shown at the ceremony Wednesday morning.

Cheetham said she has sought the support of the Fairfield County Master Gardener program, which requires volunteer work such as advising the SIS community garden as one step in achieving its master gardener certification.

She said her committee is also recruiting SIS parents as volunteers to help keep the school garden going over next summer, and the children would be encouraged to apply their gardening knowledge by starting their own gardens at home.

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