Benedict A. Cucinella Elementary School, located in Long Valley, NJ, is interested in designing a children’s garden in the courtyard of the school. The staff would like to utilize the garden with their students for learning opportunities and as an additional instructional space. The raised garden beds we intend to build and utilize will be maintained by the students in the self contained special education classes, along with the pollinator garden. Our Parent Teacher Organization that supports the staff and students created a Courtyard Garden Planning Committee, consisting of both parents and staff to discuss our proposal and delegate responsibilities. This garden would benefit students in grades Pre-K through fifth grade and the instructional benefits are interdisciplinary inclusive of our specialists (art, music, physical education, etc.)
We intend to start our project by building raised garden beds in the early spring. We hosted a fundraiser to begin raising money for the raised garden bed kits and also intend to reach out to businesses in the area for supplies including spades, trowels, gloves, etc. In the spring our self contained special education students would maintain a vegetable garden that they would begin by planting seeds in the classroom and transplanting into the raised garden beds. During the summer months the Extended School Year program will maintain the garden and donate the harvested produce to the local food pantry. The secondary part of our garden projects involves planting a pollinator garden. We have been communicating with the local Garden Club who will not only suggest ideas of how and where to plant our flower varieties, but will also be able to assist with the planting process. We have approximately 1,600 square feet of space and plan on using approximately 400 square feet for the pollinator garden. With additional funding we would be able to purchase flowers and shrubs in addition to shovels, watering cans, gardening gloves, clippers, gardening shears, trowels, and spades. We intend to finish the planting for both the raised garden beds and pollinator garden by the end of the 2021-2022 school year, however we can see the garden expanding in different ways as the years go on. Our pollinator garden will support and maintain pollinators in our community by supplying food in the form of pollen and nectar to ensure various insects and animals stay in the area to keep pollinating our crops for continued production. The variety of flowers we intend to include in our pollinator garden will have an assortment of these potential flowers: Coneflower, Goldenrod, Sunflower, Yarrow, Beebalm, Blue Aster, Butterfly weed, Joe Pye Weed. The self-contained Severe Language and Learning Disabled Classrooms will be primarily maintaining the raised garden beds and pollinator garden. The goal is for the self-contained special education students to teach the general education students about the vegetables and flowers they have planted and how to maintain the garden. This process would help to develop social skills, knowledge about plant life and how a garden positively affects our ecosystem, and provide leadership opportunities.