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The Gordon School

Growing their own food

Dozens of projects across campus, throughout the grades

above: Young Kindergarten’s garlic plants have grown as tall as the students themselves.

above: There’s a pollinator garden strategically placed near the Kindergarten, Preschool and Nursery crop gardens.

above: For the second consecutive spring, some eighth graders are doing their service learning projects on Gordon’s campus, building infrastructure for the garden and orchard in the old parking lot by Hilltop Avenue.

above: One project in the new garden is a trellis entryway, built from bamboo reclaimed from a teacher’s yard.

Across Gordon’s campus, students are growing food.

Gardens have always been a part of life at Gordon, but there has been a new intensity to the project of growing food, inspired by (at least) three recent developments:

above: Sixth graders have been using food crops to devise and execute a variety of experiments this spring, including testing the impact of companion plants: does basil grow better by itself? Or alongside tomatoes?

above: Third graders heard about companion plants, and the Indigenous practice of planting corn, bean and squash alongside one another, during a visit to the Tomaquag Museum today. Next year, third grade’s will tend an outdoor garden focusing on native species to connect with the third grade's yearlong study of Indigenous cultures.

above: Sixth grade experiments have included tests of various fertilizers - natural, handmade and storebought.

above: To create their own liquid fertilizers, sixth graders have soaked a range of plants and foods, fruits and vegetables, in a solution of lactic acid that frees nutrients for reuse.

above: Other kinds of decomposition are happening all across campus; Bootstrap Composting participated in October’s Beyond COP21 Symposium, hosted at Gordon, and now they partner with Gordon students on food scrap composting year-round.

Growing food is a project that allows faculty to bring in dozens of skills and topics, including:

  • botany basics and plant life cycles
  • sharing and making sure everyone has what they need
  • family traditions and food as a community-builder
  • decomposition and composting
  • chemistry basics
  • following instructions and teamwork
  • the social and emotional aspects of sharing a meal
  • patience
  • teamwork and group decisionmaking
  • woodworking and design basics
  • health and nutrition
  • reusing materials thoughtfully
  • trying new experiences
  • Indigenous food systems
  • drawing maps
  • scientific observation
  • supporting wild pollinators
  • thoughtful water use and water insecurity
  • the scientific method
  • native species and New England ecology
  • light and photosynthesis
  • hydroponics, greenhouses and winter growing



above: Every Middle School has had a turn working in the garden and orchard sometime this year, building, painting, mulching and planting.

above: The fifth and sixth grade Eating and Learning Science Club grew sprouts this winter and invited students from across campus to choose their favorite flavors.

above: Grass clippings from Gordon’s fields are propping up Young Kindergarten’s potato plants to increase their yield.

Crops currently growing on Gordon’s campus include:

summer squash
paw paw

above: For several years, Joe Almeida and the Buildings and Grounds team have been adding blueberry bushes to the mix of decorative shrubs on campus.

above: Middle School experiments with hydroponics have had mixed results, but students have a few things they’d still like to try before school ends.

above: Preschool hand-decorated herb gardens that offer up flavor every time students step outside.

above: The Nursery garden includes “lemonmint”, according to this four-year-old, who eagerly points it out to for passersby.

The Gordon food ecosystem is complex, and different projects are at different stages.

Herbs and sprouts are ready to eat right away, while fruit trees might not bear fruit for several years. Blueberry bushes are towering, while the action is mostly underground with carrots right now.

It may be hard to take everything in during a single visit to the campus. But for the students who are here every day, learning, playing and eating alongside these gardens, nature’s rhythms and cycles are revealing themselves. Students will find something tasty and nourishing, today, next fall, next spring, and years down the line.

More food in Gordon's curriculum:

Third grade soup day
Young Kindergarten's meal of gratitude
Tapping the maples


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