Rotarians learn of Breaking Ground

9 years ago

    HOULTON — On April 27, at the luncheon meeting, Houlton Rotary was treated to a program about “Breaking Ground.”
    Two years ago at Houlton High School, educator Shelly Bouchard began a program to replace her study hall involving students in an activity that she herself loves: gardening. With Rotary’s assistance a greenhouse was added to the high school grounds on what has been called the Bird Farm. Now this is a course at Houlton High School and can be found on the Internet at Kitchen Gardeners International.

    The course has many levels. First there is planting and harvesting crops for sustainability. Next is recognizing and collecting wild plant species, followed by a recycling and repurposing of common household items such as milk cartons, cinder blocks and tires. The establishment of a school wide composting program has been put into place.
    The students are also involved with fundraising, promoting and attending public events. The course uses student ideas and initiatives, such as the naming of the course as “Breaking Ground” and creating a logo with student artwork. The students participate in community service activities. There is also the exploration of farming practices such as crop rotation, otherwise known as research, a word Shelly hesitates to use in order to keep the students’ imaginations active.
    Bouchard shies away from hard core words describing the course in order to keep the students engaged, words such as chemistry, physics and marketing, even though all of these fields play into the course. And last but not least, the students sample new recipes using harvested produce, some recipes that they create. “Soup for the teachers” generated use of the produce and funding for the program.
    A kitchen in the classroom consists of crockpots, blenders and other tools and occasionally the Home Economics room is used for cooking. Students have tasks assigned to them such as maintaining the worm box, running the sap house, managing the garlic beds or working in the greenhouse. In the winter, the students learn about making zest from fruits and drying and packaging their products.
    Whatever is not used is composted. For example, the worms receive eggshells and coffee grounds. The class has produced cat toys, dog biscuits, tomato seedings and soup mixes, either for sale or donated to a good cause. From the beans or sunflowers, students learn how to dry and save seeds and the class visited the Seed Bank in Waterboro.
    To learn how to recognize wild edible plants, Shelly takes the students foraging for plants such as the fiddleheads, learning which of the three varieties are edible and also learning the names of the wild flowers located near the fiddleheads such as trout lily and trillium. In the garden, “weeds” such as lamb’s quarters or wild spinach are harvested and prepared for eating.
    Projects that are “breaking ground” are 30 blueberry plants, a garden for beans, squash and pumpkins and a flag pole entrance. There is hope for a raised-bed herb garden. There is also an orchard to be planted near the greenhouse. Bouchard stressed that most of the ideas come from the students, using their enthusiasm and initiative and mentioned that some students graduate and continue this course work in college.