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Students learn math and reading through gardening

STUDENTS enrolled in the summer school program at Alton Central School (left to right) include Michael Murray, Tanner Brennan, Austin White, Briana Lanviere, Alec Dalrymple, Devin Thomas, Caleb Hughen and Joey Johnston. Not pictured: Hunter Lewis, Tianna Plante and Isaac Smolin. Tim Croes. (click for larger version)
July 27, 2011
ALTON — With a small number of students attending the summer school program at Alton Central School, the challenge was to create a program that would get students excited and teach them at the same time.

Then, Liz Lichtenberg developed a program that would combine math and reading to build gardens in front of Alton Central School.

During the five-week program, which meets four days a week, students have done extensive reading about gardening and planting different types of vegetables.

The goal of the program is not only to teach the students about planting and gardening but to have them think about where their food comes from.

They also constructed mock beds inside the school, where one inch represented one foot, using nails, wood and string.

They had to figure out how much wood, nails and other equipment would be needed to construct four different beds, with each containing 42 one-square-foot plots.

Sunflower Gardens donated vegetable plants, perennials and herbs were donated from Pearson's Greenhouses, Williams Building donated loam, Cricket Lane Farm donated composted manure, Aubuchon Hardware donated hoses and Alton Home and Lumber donating materials to build the beds.

The class will be taking a field trip to Beans and Greens Farm in Gilford to see how a real-life commercial farm in action.

The program incorporates all of the steps of the growing process: research, design, budget, construction, sowing, harvesting and cooking. They worked on different mathematical concepts to construct the beds: perimeter, area, volume, money, multiplication and fractions.

Through a critical reading of Seedfolks by Paul Feishmann the students learned about the process of building a healthy garden.

ACS will be working to develop an ongoing year round program focusing on the garden after this summer's successful launch.

Hopefully, a school-community partnership can be developed with this program; with the possibility of donating crop yields to the Alton Food Pantry, working with the local farm community to aid in managing waste through a composting program for the entire school and using vegetables for school lunches and hosting a dinner made with goods from the garden.

Students also studied photography and have created invitations that feature pictures to the ribbon cutting ceremony that will be held on Thursday, Aug. 4, at 8:45 a.m. at ACS.

Ann Laria, one of the instructors at ACS for the summer program, has seen the kids get excited as the garden has progressed.

"Their reaction has been phenomenal," Laria said.

Laria is hoping that students come away with a skill that be used in the years to come.

"We are hoping to instill in them life-long skills," Laria added. "We are planting little seeds in these minds."

As the summer months pass, the garden will grow and this small group of students will know that the seeds they planted have turned into a beautiful, crop-producing garden.

Tim Croes can be reached at tcroes@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

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