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Lenox’s 4th and 5th Graders ‘Reap the Benefits’
Elementary School’s Inaugural Harvest Day Engages Students and Leads to Deeper Learning Experience
Students at Lenox Elementary School celebrated their school garden’s first fall season with “Harvest Day” – a day in which 4th and 5th graders harvested the corn planted by last year’s 4th grade classes during the late spring. With the help of horticulture experts from Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), the garden has officially been named “Three Sisters” because it produces squash, beans, and corn which work together to maximize agricultural efficiency. The young “citizen scientists” are tending to their school’s gardens as part of the unique science curriculum, which was designed specifically for Baldwin Union Free School District by a scientist, along with Nomi Rosen, the administrator for professional development. Lenox joins Brookside, Meadow, and Plaza Elementary Schools, who also have planted vegetable gardens.
“The concept of the Three Sisters Garden for Lenox was designed in a way that could be integrated across various subjects, specifically an interconnection between social studies and science. In this instance, the 4th grade social studies about New York Native American culture and the daily life of the Iroquois and Algonquin in conjunction with their science work on the sun, energy and photosynthesis. No other school on Long Island that we know of is undertaking this enormous project. This garden is another beacon of Baldwin innovation,” said Nomi, who has overseen many of the district’s innovative projects under the direction of Dr. Shari L. Camhi, superintendent of schools, including “Hello Neighbor” and Baldwin Then and Now.
“Throughout the school year, the students work in the gardens, learning different lessons each season. The collaborative program is just one of the many ways in which Baldwin UFSD’s curriculum successfully builds from one grade to the next between both the elementary and secondary-level schools, ultimately preparing all students to be future ready upon graduation.”
The gardening, coupled with the study of the local outdoor environment, helps the science lessons to be more relatable and therefore, easier to understand, resulting in a deeper learning experience. All five of the elementary schools, as well as the middle school, have also cultivated native gardens through a partnership with Seatuck Environmental Association. In addition, Baldwin High School students played an essential role in designing the Brookside garden as did the Middle School in designing Meadow's native garden.
Following the district’s teaching approach of, “enrichment for all,” this science program is accessible to every Baldwin student.
In addition to the partnerships with CCE and Seatuck, Baldwin families are involved with the gardens, as well. During the summer months, when school is not in session, families will voluntarily maintain the crops and plants, which encompasses watering and weeding the gardens. In the case of the Three Sisters garden at Lenox, families also assisted in putting the garden to bed for the winter.
“The support of our families is necessary in helping to keep the district gardens program ‘alive’ and thriving,” Nomi explained.
The children emerged from the school building on an especially sunny autumn afternoon and reunited with Beth Ricciardi from CCE, who has been working with the district’s elementary schools on various interdisciplinary horticultural learning experiences since 2018.
Students readily husked corn from stalks towering to nearly six feet, and after shucking, used traditional mortar and pestles to manually grind the corn into flour, experiencing firsthand the challenges associated with the process. Soon after, they gained a new appreciation for machinery and innovation when Nomi introduced the hand-operated manual grinders and eventually, the electric model, showing how it revolutionized the industry.
“At Lenox, we strive to create a learning environment where students are lifelong learners inside and outside of the classroom. Through this collaborative project, our district has created a garden experience that will benefit the Baldwin community for years to come,” said Ms. Valerie Paul, principal of Lenox Elementary School, who joined in on all the hands-on activities.
The fun lesson didn’t end on Harvest Day! The cornmeal milled by the students was then used to bake corn muffins. The 4th and 5th graders then conducted a scientific evaluation, where they tasted and compared the quality of their corn muffins with those purchased in a store. Some enjoyed the homemade muffins because they were less sweet, while others preferred the sweetness of store-bought. Regardless of their preference, the overall experience can be defined as meaningful, relevant and exciting, which will help the students more easily retain important facts for the long run.
“This learning experience is just one of the many opportunities Baldwin students have to become fully immersed in their learning and to make deep connections between curriculum and life,” said Nomi Rosen.