Growing Food and Knowledge All Summer Long

SWEDESBORO — In March of 2020, when the pandemic began, teachers had to transition from in person teaching to online, and the nature of teachers’ work shifted radically and practically overnight.

Curriculum became digital. Field trips were cancelled. Projects were postponed. How could teachers keep a sense of normalcy for their students with such an abrupt change?

Second grade teacher, Lynne Bussott, at General Charles Stratton School had an idea while tending to her “pandemic garden” on her deck.

Each year, to foster equity and inclusion in Bussott’s ACES/ESL homeroom class, they participate in a year-long project that helps solve a problem or issue in the environment, and due to the pandemic, she had to think outside of the box.

“I kept thinking how much fun it would be for my students to see this humongous tomato plant that was grown from a seed, or to eat something that they planted,” said Bussott. “I wanted to share that experience with students and their families.”

And that’s where The Garden Club at Swedesboro-Woolwich school district (SWSD) grew.

During this summer, students at SWSD will grow vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers alongside milkweed plants and other flowers, while learning about soil health.

Students will also be able to observe ecosystem interdependence, plant and animal life cycles, work in the garden, take nature walks, monitor blue bird houses, record observations, and so much more.

“I felt gardening would be outside, safe, socially distanced and fit in with so many of our content standards, character ed standards, and provide 21st century career readiness skills,” said Bussott. 

Not only will The Garden Club benefit students and our environment, the club will promote community involvement in that families are welcome to participate in many activities such as planting, watering, picking, bundling and carrying home the fruits of their labors.

“As a teacher, I support equity and inclusion where kids from different cultures, abilities, and identities have an opportunity to work in diverse groups to learn empathy, team work, collaboration and cooperation to reach a mutual goal,” said Bussott. “And gardening helps to build better communities and community involvement.”

The club’s first plant session happened on Saturday, May 1 where students were able to see the garden and help get the seedlings started.

The Garden club at SWSD will officially start on June 29 and run through August 29. More than 45 students have signed up and a wait list has already been established.

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