Thomas Jefferson Middle School Garden
DescriptionThis organic garden at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Arlington, Virginia was created as a Girl Scout Silver Award project by Cadette Troop 557. The garden was built over the course of a few years, with the bulk of it constructed in 2012-2013. A portion of the produce supports the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) as part of the "Plot Against Hunger" program. Students and community members volunteer in the garden on many weekends throughout the year. Each October, the school hosts a harvest festival where the chorus sings and an evening movie is shown in the garden. Features of the garden include a Native American "Three Sisters" planting of squash, corn, and beans, plantings that serve as a way station for migrating monarch butterflies, and an insect hotel in the pollinator portion of the garden.
There is a life skills class that uses the garden a lot in the fall and spring. Science classes use the garden for experiments, and the social studies classes use it when studying Virginia history (because it is a native garden and they plant the “Three Sisters” every year). English classes use it on nice days to go out and read because there is an outdoor classroom area.
We also have community members who have stopped by, many of them immigrants, who gave us advice on how and where to plant—especially when they saw a plant that needed to be moved.
Many students have grown to love eating and preparing vegetables (green beans, okra and yellow squash, in particular) after working in and caring for the garden. One of the perks of volunteering in the Jefferson Garden is getting to take some of the produce home. The salad harvested from the garden is offered to students in the spring during special, planned lunches. These are big events at the school and students often come back for seconds—eleven helpings of garden salad served to one student stands as the record!