Inspire Grant Program Helps Grow New Curriculum

December 1, 2023

This past summer, the classroom teachers in pre-kindergarten to grade 2 selected books for summer reading related to food and used that theme to start the year in their classrooms. Teachers then worked together across grades to connect this topic to their classrooms as part of the Inspire grant program, which enables faculty from different classes and departments to work collaboratively on a project. This group, along with visual arts teacher and sustainability coordinator Kathy Jo Solomon and librarian Amy Sprung, met to discover other books that connect to their summer reading selections, as well as to connect different aspects of food from growing, to cooking, to preservation to existing curriculum. And everyone was excited to bring their classes to the garden this fall for some experiential learning about growing food.

As part of this multi-grade level collaboration, students in pre-kindergarten through second grade were invited to bring food “scraps” from home to assist in the creation of a “lasagne”or mulch layering garden. Students learned that in a lasagne garden, there is a combination of brown (carbon) and green (nitrogen) layers. The brown for our lasagne garden was from leaves and sawdust from the woodworking department. The green can be fruit and vegetable scraps or coffee grounds, which came from the student contributions. This is a way to create highly nutritive soil in a fairly short period of time. Students in all four grades worked in the garden and added their class’s nitrogen layer contribution. When first graders begin their “three sisters garden” in the spring, they will have fertile soil for their corn, beans, and squash to thrive.

This group of educators was also excited to brainstorm ideas for summer reading themes for future years and will decide in the Spring what the early childhood classes might explore next.

The Inspire grant team consisted of:

  • Pre-kindergarten: Nicole Siverls, Kim Edwards, and Eric Ridore
  • Kindergarten: Missy Hartvigsen and Elizabeth Ho
  • First Grade: Geffrey Fox and Cicely Gibson
  • Second Grade: Nancy Fell and Katie O’Brien
  • Visual Arts Teacher and Sustainability Coordinator: Kathy Jo Solomon
  • Librarian: Amy Sprung

By John O'Neill, director of athletics |

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