West Newbury - 3rd Grade - Garden Expansion Project

Page School Garden Expansion Project  

In designing and implementing an expansion of a garden on school grounds in West Newbury, students in several different grades contributed to a more sustainable food system in their school community.  They connected this service to curricular-based learning goals in science, social studies, literacy, math, library science, and nutrition.  In the process, they created ties with over 15 partners, including people within the school system, municipal agencies, cultural institutions, local businesses, parents, and civic organizations.  The project truly allowed a community to come together as contributing stewards of their place.  One art teacher completed the Park for Every Classroom course offered by Essex Heritage and the National Park Service.  Working closely with one other teacher, a parent volunteer, and many community partners, she spearheaded a far-reaching project based on this learning.

Read more in the Newburyport Daily News.

Impacts on students:

Reach multiple cross-disciplinary curricular goals:

3rd grade


  • during a  field studies visit to Pioneer Village in Salem, students learned how organisms can cause changes in their environment to ensure survival and how and where human changes in the environment impact other organisms - all within the context of the colonial-style garden on site
  • students engaged in plant identification as they cleaned out the neglected area of the garden at their school
  • students learned about plant ecology as they designed four new garden beds for their school in a colonial garden style
  • students studied links between individual foods and nutritional value
  • students grew plants and herbs from seed, measuring growth and connecting these activities to plant ecosystems
  • students studied the life cycle of the potato plant by preparing seed potatoes, readying garden beds, and planting the potatoes

social studies:

  • while studying the colonial era, students made a field studies visit to Pioneer Village to find out about life in the colonial era in a hands-on way.  Among other activities, students experienced the particular attributes of a local colonial garden on site and used what they had learned when it came time to design their garden at school
  • while studying the Revolutionary War era, students made field studies visits to a Trustees of Reservations property, the Old Manse, and to local farms to understand how land was used differently in the early colonial period vs. the Revolutionary War period, and to foster a broader understanding of land use and food systems over time 

English language arts:

  • students created an ABC book about their visit to Pioneer Village focused on the role the garden played in the life of the early English settlers (each student was given a letter to focus on for the collaborative book)
  • students crafted invitations to their celebratory “Garden Party” Page School Garden Expansion ribbon-cutting ceremony and wrote thank you notes to community supporters of the garden project

library science: to create the ABC book, students conducted research with the school librarian so that they could each create a fact-based descriptive text based on their letter’s connection to a historic garden

art: students learned the basics of book illustration. Each student created a watercolor and crayon resist painting that depicted how the colonial garden played an integral part of the daily life of the early settlers to include with their “letter” in the book

math:  students used math skills to calculate how many rows of peas to plant and how to utilize bamboo stakes to effectively support shoots in a garden bed after being given its dimensions. After drawing up plans on paper, students gathered supplies and planted their vegetable bed

2nd grade

science: students were involved in building new compost bins that would serve the school garden and make better use of cafeteria waste; this tied to curriculum exploration of soil

5th grade

science: students transplanted seedlings to the garden in conjunction with a unit on plants

art: students created clay stakes with the names of plants and herbs that were planted in the garden (from lists generated by the 3rd grade students)

Kindergarten and 6th grade:

art:  these two grades collaborated to create recycled seed paper “flowers” that the school’s music students gave to a local nursing home as they gave a concert.  The seed paper will be used at the nursing home to create a garden on the premises.

Develop civic engagement through service learning:

Students contributed to creating a more sustainable food system in their local community by:

  • coordinating with the food manager at the school to find out which produce would be most needed by the cafeteria
  • cultivating nutritious produce for students’ meals; this included “Tasting Tuesdays” where students were asked to try something new that was grown in the garden
  • creating a compost bins that the cafeteria uses for food waste
  • creating new garden beds with labeled plants that the community can learn from
  • working with municipal agencies to develop and implement a more sustainable water-use system for the garden

Students helped their community become more aware of the local history of gardening by:

  • creating ABC books that described early Massachusetts colonists’ lives in relation to their gardens.  Copies of the books were distributed to each student, the school library, and to Pioneer Village, the site they had visited, so that others could learn about life in colonial times in an engaging way

Students cultivated ties within their community by:

  • calling on local experts to become significantly involved in their garden project through donations of labor, supplies, knowledge, and time
  • celebrating their work at a community “garden party” at the end of the school year

Experience benefits of contextualized, integrated learning where students are given a voice:

  • Students’ learning took place in the context of the real-world experience of the garden where multiple private partners from outside of school showcased how their business required knowledge and skills that students were learning
  • Students played a decision-making role in the project by contributing to garden design, creating feelings of ownership and stewardship
  • students’ garden project connected learning in disciplines that might otherwise be isolated

Impact on teachers:  

Teacher, Kate W.:  “I felt proud that my younger students got to work with people of all ages from High School students who had attended the Page School, with parents of their classmates and with older folk who work the land as farmers and gardeners. It was important to me to show my students the importance of being stewards of the land within their community. I loved that the students were outdoors experiencing new ways to learn.”

The leaders of this project, with the support of administrators, sought out grants from various sources.  One of the places they were able to receive training and money was the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, which runs a Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom Mini-Grant program and provides workshops for teachers on how to implement a garden project and connect it to curricular goals.

Impact on the community

The project’s main organizers included the art teacher, a third grade teacher, and a parent volunteer.  Working closely with the school’s principal, these leaders and their students brought together partners from many sectors of the community to make the project work.  The garden project exemplifies the power of community collaboration in service and learning.

Teacher Kate W.:  “I live out of town but I felt as if I was a part of West Newbury then and it was great to have the local gardeners and farmers give me advice on plant selection, gardening tips and then take the time to talk about ideas they had on how to continue to support the Page School Garden over the coming summer and on into the future."