Barnum 4-H School Garden

This was originally posted by Organic Gardening 365. 

barnum sign

Question: What do you get when you cross the savvy leadership training skills of 4-H with a Bridgeport, CT school that wants to teach kids responsibility through gardening?

Answer: The Barnum School 4-H Garden.

The Barnum School 4-H Garden is a display of hard work and great pride. They grow a wonderful variety of fresh vegetables and have a couple of apple trees.

These kids are learning the basic gardening skills of planting, watering, weeding, harvesting, etc. The kids are learning about growing and eating healthy food, and developing some wonderful life skills in the process.They also learn how to correct their mistakes. When they pick the tomatillos, for example, they have learned to look for the ones that were ripe by examining the papery shells. They also realized that the carrots had been planted a little too close together and hadn’t been thinned out. That’s why some of them were so small. They are learning the things we all have learned as we try new things and new ideas in the garden.

When asked what they liked best about gardening. The replies included – “Planting, watering, harvesting.” “Watching everything grow!” “Eating what you grow yourself.”

One of the lessons of the day was: Insects in the garden. Did you know that a ladybug’s wings beat 85 times a second?

barnum vegetablesThere are 25 kids in the Barnum School Garden Club. The program runs most of the school year, except the dead of winter, and part of the summer, is now two years old. Half the kids come on Mondays and Wednesdays. The others come on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Debbi Forgette, who is a Special Ed Para for pre-K to 2nd grade during the school year, is the teacher.

Debbi explained how important this program has been to all the kids involved:

“It has a calming effect on them. We all work together as a team. We learn how to cook and it gives them opportunities to grow in various ways and helps develop their leadership skills.”

But it’s not just about gardening. One guest speaker taught them how to make a video presentation. Another class focused on how marketers package and place their products in stores to get more people to buy them. We are talking about life lessons here which are the cornerstone of 4-H

There were many helping hands involved all along the way to make the Barnum School Garden productive. Ede Valiquette, 4-H Director for Fairfield County, CT visited several schools in the area looking for the right fit and Barnum School Principal, Dr. Ralph Paladino, caught the vision. Many volunteer hours were racked up in constructing the numerous raised beds and Grillo Services, an organic landscape supply company in Milford, CT contributed multiple bags of organic soil for the garden. Kerry Karlson, a Master Gardener, designed and helped the kids plant the garden. The Site Coordinator, Veronica Swain, helps in every phase of the project including teaching the classes.

If you are interested in starting a garden project at your kids’ school, a good place to start is with your local 4-H office. 4-H is well connected with each state’s Extension Service and can offer ideas and perhaps support to get you started.

James Early

Organic Gardening 365

Helping you get the most out of your garden