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The Country School

STEM projectThe students and staff at The Country School love their garden.  In fact, they adopted the Audrey Hepburn quote, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” as their motto.  However like many of the schools across the United States, the weather during the academic calendar year challenges their efforts.  Located in Madison, Connecticut, frosty temperatures arrive early in the fall and they may not be able to plant outdoors until the first week of May.  They used the Carton 2 Garden Contest to come up with a creative solution to their dilemma.

“We use to have a small green house to extend our growing season and get our seedlings started early,” shares STEAM Teacher Shari Lariviere, “but it collapsed in a snow storm. Our unique solution: Encourage collaboration between multiple grade levels of students, faculty, staff and administration to use milk and orange juice cartons, re-cycled panels and hosing from our old greenhouse, duct tape, wood dowels and leftover spray paint to build a functional and nice-looking mini-greenhouse to house and irrigate our growing seedlings.”

The Country School kicked off their efforts with announcements during the school day and also at after school meetings.  “Students from all grades worked together, made posters, gave announcements in school meetings, created specialized recycling stations, washed, tallied and repurposed the cartons.”  Participating in the Carton 2 Garden project not only provided the practical benefit of providing space to get an early start on their spring garden, but the collaboration also helped created an excitement around the process and “allowed us to feel energized about our efforts.”

The first, fourth and eighth graders were leaders in the project.  They started by brainstorming ways to solve weather challenges at TCS and came up with the solution of replacing their old greenhouse with a cold frame (aka “the mini-greenhouse”). Students took on the role of engineers.  They studied plant life cycles, learned about engineering principals you need to follow to build a sturdy structure, explored physics as they crafted an irrigation system and also honed math skills as they incorporated practical geometry into the building design process.  Older students served as mentors for younger students. The younger students incorporated math by measuring, estimating, counting cartons and designing blueprints. The project also incorporated technology as students documented the process through digital photography and video.

“Our overall school environmental mission includes creating awareness of the need for The Three R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle so this project was a perfect fit, and our students embraced the challenge eagerly.” In addition to the milk cartons, they also repurposed old greenhouse panels, trays, containers and hosing for their project.  “We’ve had a school garden for nearly ten years, but, through this contest, we have noticed a renewed excitement in planning and caring for our garden. This program is encouraging our students to gain more knowledge of the environment as well as to take leadership in creating healthy changes in our world. The project sparked renewed interest in what has been planted in the garden in the past and what we would like to add to the garden.”

As the 2019 STEM Award Winner, The Country School’s innovative Carton 2 Garden Project also raised funds to help expand and sustain their school gardening efforts. Narrated by the students, their winning video shows their learning process from beginning to end. Perhaps it may even inspire your school to work on your own project!

Details about the 2019-2020 Carton 2 Garden Contest are now available. Start planning your project today!

Carton 2 Garden