EASTPORT, Maine — Hundreds of vegetable, herb and flower seedlings were snapped up Thursday by eager gardeners, who sometimes stood three deep at the parking lot seedling sale just to get to the plants.
Middle school-age students at Eastport Elementary School planned the project, planted the seeds and tended the seedlings as part of a local Masters’ Gardeners project. Along with volunteers and teachers, the children learned some valuable life lessons along the way.
“This was all about experiential learning, hands-on,” volunteer Connie Knight said as the sale got under way. “It is cooperative learning at its best.”
And not only do the kids learn how to garden well together, they also learn more about the food they eat, where it comes from and its value.
“The sale is just one part of what we do,” volunteer Linda Sisson said. The students learn about plant varieties, soil science and composting too.
Sisson said the project began three years ago as an effort to provide flowers around the school’s flag pole. It has expanded to include composting bins — made by science teacher Trudy Newcomb from lobster trap wire — and raised beds that provide fresh herbs for the school’s kitchen.
Students have raised red worms in indoor beds to enrich the soil and learned this week how to practice business skills as they priced, marked and sold their seedlings.
“I think everything about this project is important,” eighth-grader Donna Andrews said. “We learned all about plants, and we had ownership of the gardens at school.” Andrews said she gardens with her mother every summer but that her participation in the school’s growing project has given her a deeper understanding of producing her own food.
“I think this project has also contributed to a lot of pride in the school,” Knight said. “All the teachers and staff have been wonderfully supportive. And we try to get all the grades involved as much as possible.”
All of the students’ plants were grown in classrooms and cold frames. “We don’t have a greenhouse — yet,” Knight added.