High school students create sustainable garden

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The Advocate, Jonathan Law High School’s student newspaper.

Jonathan Law’s unused courtyard will soon become a sustainable garden for students and faculty.

Students in Joseph Barcello’s class made several garden boxes from recycled pallet boards. Solar panels, moisture sensors, rain collectors and seeds for the plants are in the process of being purchased as well.

“It’s a real world project that we can use to teach life skills and different ways to use technology such as renewable energy, recycling and programming,” Technology Education Teacher Mark Robinson said.

The idea for the garden came from Family and Consumer Sciences teacher Megan Juhase, who wanted to run a unit on garden-to-table food with her food services class. She started the idea at a middle school in Southington, where she worked previously, and wanted to bring the concept to Law.

“It is going to be a lot of fun and I am really excited to get started because I think all of the nutrition classes with benefit from it, [as well as] the Peer Assisted students, and even the staff,” Juhase said.

Guidance counselor Michele Haramis directed Robinson to the Milford Environmental Protection Initiative, a MIlford-based group, and Law was awarded a $1,000 grant to get the project started.

“This is the exact project they were looking for,” Robinson said. “They were blown away when they heard our idea and could not wait to help us.”

The garden will include tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, lettuce, eggplant and corn. Law’s special education classes will start the seeds in the greenhouse and the plants will be transported to the courtyard when they are grown.

The garden will be maintained by the Technology Students Association and by the Peer Assisted Foods classes. Special education teacher Amy Andrews and Law’s culinary students will be picking the produce daily, as needed, to limit any waste.

“I am excited for this project,” Andrews said. “It is a great way to bring so many students and classes together for one great purpose.”

Seniors Mark Dow and Nikolai Jaisiree are helping with the planning and creation of an automatic watering system. The students in the Technology Students Association have brainstormed the idea.

The system will drain water from the roof and then collect the rain in barrels. It will also detect the moisture level in the plant boxes so the water collected will be released at a regulated level.

“What the project means to us is a way for us to give back to the Law community by creating a sustainable way to make produce that will be sold to the faculty of Law and used in cooking classes,” Dow said. “It is also a personal challenge to create an autonomous system of watering that is effective.”

Robinson, Juhase and Andrews will also be taking turns maintaining the garden during the summer.

“We are setting an example of how easy it is to make a difference in the environment with little effort and having fun doing it at the same time,” Robinson said. “It is going to be a fascinating experience for all.”

The Milford Environmental Protection Initiative not only sponsored the sustainable garden project but will also be providing a student a stipend for writing articles about projects pertaining to Milford's environment.

Barbara Milton, representing the Milford Environmental Protection Initiative, praised the project.

"What an exciting project — drawing so many students and classes together, using so many tools to make it sustainable, delivering so much pleasure to the ultimate diners, and setting an example for other people and schools to do something big for themselves and the environment,” Milton said.

More information may be found about Milford Environmental Protection Initiative grants at mepimilford.org.