The Manchester School in Windham, ME has been bringing gardening to its students since 1999, when a small $300 WalMart Grant got them started. As a guidance counselor, Pam Lanz, who was prompted by the then principal Kassy Clements, applied for the funds to beautify the front of the school after the inside had undergone a major renovation. It only takes a little bit of nudging, belief, financial support, and some beautiful flowers to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
Pam and a core group of staff members, particularly Stacey Sanborn (4th grade teacher), parent volunteers and of course the students started the flower gardens. For teaching purposes and to save a bit of money, they started their own seeds – where it all starts – so students could learn what seeds need to grow and observe plant life cycles from seed to harvest.
In 2009, after attending an outstanding workshop at Gorham Middle School on starting and sustaining vegetable gardens at schools, Lanz, and teachers Peter Allen, Sabrina Nickerson and others decided to venture into growing vegetables in raised beds.
The Manchester Learning Gardens now consist of three flower garden areas, a hoop house used to extend the growing season, seven 4' X 10' raised beds, and a round in-ground bed for vegetables and herbs. And this mental map wouldn’t be complete without the additions of the tool shed, picnic tables, arbor, and three bin compost system - if your school is looking to compost, these folks may be able to give you some guidance!
We can also look to the Manchester Learning Gardens for lessons on how to avoid stagnation in the garden. More and more produce has made its way from the garden beds into the cafeteria and beyond, with donations going to the Windham Food Pantry over the summer. They’ve also managed to make it financially stable through an annual plant sale and other fundraisers, private donations, grant writing, and some district money when it was available. Unfortunately, they have since lost that funding source, but are hopeful about future funds for a garden coach position.
Ms. Pam Lanz, one of the garden leaders at Manchester, has been an incredible asset to the MSGN Board for 3 years as of this past October. Pam brings a unique perspective, having served as an educator for 36 years, and having been a driving force for the garden since its inception. She’s a certified Master Gardener, and if we could give her a certification, we’d dub her Master Board Member and School Garden Advocate. Always willing to help, Pam has lent the voice of educators, with the understanding of the challenges that teachers face every day. After 17 years, she continues to serve on the Manchester Gardens for Learning committee, facilitates classroom lessons, brings students outside on a weekly basis, helps order seeds, participates in cooking and tasting projects (check out their Curried Carrot Soup and Pineapple Carrot Muffin recipes!), coordinates fundraising events, and performs weekend and summer care.
In her own words, “I know from a firsthand perspective the demands put on educators and the every day challenges we face, even more so if you're trying to be part of starting and maintaining school gardens, motivating others to get involved and integrating garden related curriculum into the traditional school subjects and standards that teachers have to teach.” Still, she believes in this work and has certainly observed the benefits: “I've seen firsthand the joy, enthusiasm, curiosity, cooperation and real involvement by kids when they're outside working in the gardens and doing hands-on garden related lessons in the classroom. It makes all of the hard work of having and sustaining a school garden, well worth the effort!”
To contact Pam with questions or comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org