Written by Luci Hancock, BRWIA AmeriCorps VISTA
Cove Creek was recently awarded a HCLF and Lettuce Learn grant. The grant will be used to hold a garden-based professional development workshop for five teachers at the school. The goal of the professional development will be to provide teachers with the tools they need to incorporate the garden into their classes.
Currently, Cove Creek School has 14 raised beds, a greenhouse, several pollinator gardens and birdhouses, and an observational bee hive. The hive is located in the school library and is used for educational purposes. The gardens are primarily cared for by Cove Creek's after-school Eco-Raiders program. One class has a vermiculture bin, and the school is currently in the process of creating a composting and recycling program in their cafeteria. They are also raising money with the intent of powering their greenhouse will solar panels in the future. CCS also recently purchased two seed starting sets which are utilized in first grade classrooms.
For every Local First Rewards Card sold, High Country Local First donates $5 to support local school garden programs in Watauga and Ashe Counties. This grant cycle, Lettuce Learn and HCLF awarded three schools with grants to build or expand upon their garden-based educational programming.
The kids and teachers are playing hard and (hopefully) relaxing before the new school year but the Cove Creek Garden has been open for business through the Summer. Christine Fasanello, our ASU garden intern has been stopping by regularly to take care of things and provide updates. We have also had a group of dedicated parents and teachers who have helped to water the plants through out the Summer (thank you Sabena Maiden, Carla Parker, Grace Plummer, Trina Palmer, Davidson Family, Tricia Pfister, Emily Greer, Traci Hartley and Rebecca Tobiassen!), and other families like the Raymonds popped in to get their hands dirty and do some weeding. Others like Sara Isaacs and Anita Mains have helped to "put out some fires" like issues with water hoses.
We want to encourage as many members of the community as possible to participate in our garden project and will continue to look for ways to get more involvement. It's an amazing garden with lots of potential and the more hands on deck we have the more we'll be able to get out of it all year round.
Our main issues this Summer have been crazy weeds because of all the rain and some pests like Japanese beetles, but crops like tomatoes, beans and pumpkins are all flourishing thanks to our garden helpers. Check out some photo updates of what's been growing. Photo credits: Sabena Maiden.
Issues that have come up for future discussion:
The WAMY Camp kids have been spending some time lately helping out in the Cone Garden, specially weeding and watering. They also got to hang out with Doug Galloway and Sabena Maiden, our school's beekeepers, and learn about what our pollinator friends have been up to during the summer. A shout out to Emily Greer for her leadership, and for inspiring the WAMY kids with so many different and fun activities. The WAMY Camp is such a wonderful asset to our Vilas community.
At Cove Creek School we have a lot of teachers and parents who are passionate about gardening. Six teachers in particular have been recommended by their peers and now form the group of official "Garden Ambassadors" for the Cone Garden at CCS. The role of the Garden Ambassadors is to inspire others to get involved with gardening and sustainability efforts at the school and provide expertise and ideas. Garden Ambassadors are also members of the school's Nature Team.
(Post originally published in the EcoRaiders website.)
It has been a busy last week of school at Cove Creek! There have been musicals, 8th grade promotions, class outings, field day events, end of year parties, parent meetings and retirement celebrations for our principal, Mr. Toby Cone. The school garden has also been seeing a lot of action with many classes getting out to their vegetable patch to water their plants, weed, or do some last minute planting of summer crops. Mrs. Pfister's class for example, harvested some kale which was ready, and Mrs. Warren and Mrs. Hall's third graders planted potatoes and tomatoes in their raised beds.
We also had some help in the garden from Mr. Johnell Hunter, a Master Gardener from Winston Salem who was visiting with Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture.
On Tuesday May 30th we dedicated the garden to Mr. Cone with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and surprise unveiling of the amazing mosaic sign created by Angela McMann. It was quite a week indeed!
I went to our Cove Creek School Garden extension, situated behind Henson Chapel, to take some pictures of the pumpkins so I could share an update. As you might recall from the previous post "The Great Pumpkin Patch," the pumpkin patch was planted by parents and teachers of 6th and 7th graders as a fundraised for their Space Camp trip. The Cornell family graciously offered the land behind their house on loan for the pumpkin patch. Unfortunately, when I got there a couple of days ago, the pumpkins had already all been picked! Brian showed me the stash in their garage. It seems like they were planted a little too early (maybe by a month) and they were already ripe. Some were also found missing from the patch due to what we think might have been a misunderstanding (some people thinking it was a community garden where families can help themselves to crops, which it has been in the past). The ones that made it look great though!
There were some valuable lessons to be learned here and they already have lots of ideas to carry out the revised project again next year. In the meantime, there are plenty of pumpkins that are perfectly pie worthy and that will be available to the community in exchange for donations to the Space Camp trip.
After some mishaps with machinery over the summer, we were finally able to get some help from a friendly neighbor (Roger Townsend) with a shiny blue tractor on our school garden plot. The goal was to prepare the ground for the raised plant beds to be put in. Roger was familiar with the land around the school and warned me that it is the ground around and that it was stripped of all topsoil when the school was built. He assured that we would never be able to grow anything there, but was a bit more optimistic when I told him we were putting in raised beds. Despite being worried about his breaking his tractor on the rocks, he agreed to come and check it out. He mowed the area and removed the biggest rocks, but that's as far as he was willing to go and it was a good start for us, we are thankful for his help breaking ground!
Since we are using raised flower beds exclusively and other above-the-ground planting structures, the ground below doesn't have to be perfectly tilled or leveled, but we do want it a bit smoother and free of grasses. So the next step is to go in with some rototillers, hoes and broadforks that we will hopefully borrow from our friends at BRWIA. For this, we will recruit as many enthusiastic parents and kids as we can. The goal is for the raised plant beds to be put in by the horticulture class and EcoRaiders Environmental Science Club the week of September 12th. Stay put for more exciting updates!
Cove Creek School's 6th and 7th Grades are proud to present the will-be greatest pumpkin patch of the High Country. Dr. Leah Sherman, a parent at CCS, is leading the effort to grow some amazing pumpkins which will probably be available for purchasing in early September. Funds from the pumpkin sales will go towards the 6th and 7th Grade Space Camp trip in Hunsville, AL. There are many bright students in our community who might not be able to attend the camp trip without support from our school families and friends, and we are excited that a great group of parents and teachers are making this fundraiser possible.
The pumpkin patch is next to the Hensons Chapel Church and the CCS community would like to thank Brian and Katherine Cornell for their generosity in loaning out this patch of land for the cause. In addition to the Sherman and Cornell families, Carla Parker, Bertha Wilson, Amy Lang and Brenda Isaacs' families also helped with the grooming of the land and seed planting. A big shout out to all of them!
Ms. Brenda Hicks stopped by the patch this week and reported that the patch survived the big wind storm and that she "found it doing remarkably well." She send along the photo above.
More updates on the pumpkin patch coming up and information about how you can get your hands on this Fall staple and support a great cause.
Although the school already has a greenhouse, a well-established horticulture class and several raised flower beds, next year will see an expansion of school-wide gardening efforts. Thanks to Mrs. Debbie Norris' leadership and hard work over the years to raise money for the materials, the school will create a designated school garden with enough beds for teachers who is interested in adopting one for their class.
The newly established EcoRaiders Environmental Science Club at CCS will partner with Mrs. Norris and recruit the help of school families to build the flower beds as well as a compost station. Mrs. Norris' 6th grade class recently participated in ASU's "EcoSensors for Mountain Classrooms" program and used Vernier LabQuest 2 digital probe systems to test soil types at different sites around the school to verify the quality of the soil in the designated garden plot. Stay put for more updates!