For my project I set out to design an accessible garden space and accompanying curriculum for the students at the South Shore Educational Collaborative (SSEC) in Hingham, Massachusetts. I have been involved in this school, a day program for children and adults with multiple disabilities, for many years, and I have long been looking forward to putting their existing greenhouse to good use. Over the course of my project I have accomplished many of my goals, including writing an annual production plan and drawing up a garden design that accounts for accessibility concerns while maximizing the potential area of the garden. I have also outlined a complete budget and wish list for the project, with my total funding goal coming to about $1,000 before books and other classroom materials, which I hope to purchase through the school’s existing budget. Once my budget was complete, I applied to four grants: two through the National Gardening Association, one through Annie’s Homegrown, and one through Whole Foods. I have also written letters to other farmers and gardeners in the area, asking for donations of time or materials. This winter, as I continue my project, I hope to meet with some small businesses in the area to ask for donations as well. If my grants don’t come through, I plan to start a Kickstarter campaign online to fund my project.
In addition to the garden plans, I did my research paper on the psychological and physical benefits of working outdoors, the recent history and present atmosphere of agriculture in the classroom, and how to write lesson plans and curriculum for agriculture and accessibility. I was able to outline about 25 lessons that I will flesh out and begin using this spring as the garden gets up and running. I will also be working with some other staff at the school to create a long-term curriculum for this subject area. My hope is that eventually the garden will be financially self-sustaining, with students selling produce either at local farmers’ markets or at a farm stand at the school itself.
Some of the most helpful pieces of this project were having experience at the school, both with the students and staff and also with the space available, and having the school’s support from the very beginning. They have been able to answer questions and help me plan this project even at such a great distance from the school itself. One thing I would do differently is that I should have begun applying to grants earlier, because I missed the deadlines of a couple that were relevant to this project, and any opportunity for funding should not be missed. I’m looking forward to making these plans a reality this winter and spring for my Senior Study.