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Hudson Valley Press

June 4th, 2014

Balmville Garden Helps Grow Bright Future for Students

Balmville Elementary School students Nicholas Clarino, Ahmad Mahmood, Shayne Griffin and Landon Hermida work in the garden at their school, which produced cantaloupes, corn and tomatoes.

NEWBURGH - The seed for a school garden project at Balmville Communications and Media Center, an elementary school in the Newburgh Enlarged City School District, lay dormant for close to ten years until 2012 when then PTA President Heather Christy-Robinson and teachers helped make it grow into the school’s first "green classroom." The project was made possible through a Healthy Kids NY grant – written by parents, teachers and NECSD Grant Writer Sonya Dixon- and PTA funds.

Third grade students participated in a garden design contest, using specific garden dimensions and working from a plant list featuring names of common vegetables and flowers that grow well in the Northeast. The winning student designs were incorporated into the final garden plan.

Raised beds were built by head custodian Steve Gledura, teachers Kris Campbell-Defoe and Robert Conti, and filled using a topsoil/leaf compost mix and recycled wood chips from trees cut from the very spot where the garden stands today.

Ground was first broken in late May just in time for students to plant a whole truckload of seedlings donated by Sorbello’s Greenhouse in Highland. During the last week of school, families and teachers signed up to help weed, water and harvest during the hot summer months.

In September when students returned to school they were greeted with a bounty of huge cantaloupes, corn, green beans, herbs, tomatoes of all kinds, watermelons and pumpkins. Kindergarten classes each received a pumpkin. Third graders weighed, counted, measured and ate the green bean and tomato harvest. Other classes spent time drawing, tasting and enjoying time in the garden. Families, bus drivers and staff came after school and gathered what produce remained.

This year, with a generous donation from the Hudson Valley Seed Library, teachers will guide students in Pre-K through 5th grade on the importance of saving seeds, as well as starting their own seeds and then planting out the seedlings.

Long term goals for the garden include an adjacent pavilion with tables, shed, rain barrels and compost tumbler.

If you’d like to help Balmville School’s garden classroom grow please contact Kris Campbell-Defoe at 845-563-8550.

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