Watershed Coalition to honor Troy Howard Garden Project Oct. 20

Students, project leaders to discuss renowned educational program
Oct 13, 2016
Courtesy of: THMS Garden Project Troy Howard Middle School Garden Project students display ribbons — 43 of them blue — they won at this year's Common Ground Country Fair in Unity.

Belfast — The Troy Howard Middle School Garden Project will receive a conservation award, and its founders, their successors, and student gardeners will talk about the project and sell produce Thursday, Oct. 20, at 6:30 p.m. in the Abbott Room of Belfast Free Library, 106 High St.

Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition is hosting the free program with the THMS Garden Project, and will present the BBWC Conservation Award, given every four to six years to an individual or group that has shown outstanding achievement in conservation. All are welcome to the event, which provides an opportunity to meet Garden Project founders and successors who have created and run this nationally renowned educational program, as well as students currently engaged in the unique hands-on learning experience.

There will also be an opportunity to purchase garden produce from this year's bounty and seeds.

In 2000, educators Steve Tanguay, Don White, and Linda Hartkopf launched the THMS Garden Project as a creative, interdisciplinary approach to achieving learning standards which provides students with long-term, meaningful lessons. A departure from school-as-usual, it has been written up on websites like the Center for Ecoliteracy in California, and published in the book Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability, as an example to emulate in schools around the country.

Sixteen years later, the project has a heated greenhouse, newly installed solar panels, kitchen with outdoor wood-fired cob oven, expanded gardens, and composting area for both cafeteria and garden waste. Jon Thurston, co-founder of the Medomak Valley High School Heirloom Seed Project, carried the project after its founders moved on, until his recent retirement. The current educator directing the project is David Wessels.

Students run the business of ordering seeds, tools, and other needs, which they pay for with proceeds from their seedling, hanging basket, and seed packet sales in spring, farm stand sales during the growing months, and selling greens grown in the greenhouse to the Belfast Co-op throughout the winter. They also supply the school cafeteria with produce, amounting to over 1,000 pounds last year. With supervision, students learn the practical skills of accounting and budgeting.

Students save seeds from year to year for replanting, and for sale in seed packets they design and create in art class. They tap trees and boil sap for maple syrup, press apple cider and prepare applesauce, donate produce to Belfast Soup Kitchen, and produce an annual garden-related art show for a month-long exhibit in the Belfast Co-op's cafe. At this year’s Common Ground Country Fair, Garden Project students won 43 blue ribbons for their vegetables.

The Garden Project is commended by the Maine State Board of Education, federally recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and internationally known as a member of Seed Savers International. The Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition's Conservation Award honors the project's emphasis on conservation, community connections, and relevant, well-rounded education.

Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition is a Belfast-based, member-driven nonprofit that supports conservation and stewardship of natural and public resources of the Belfast Bay watershed through research, community-building, and education. Its field trips, programs, and meetings are free and open to all.

To learn more, visit belfastbaywatershed.org. The Belfast Bay watershed consists of the Goose River, Little River, Passagassawakeag River, and Wescot Stream watersheds, totaling 69,656 acres and 108.8 square miles.

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