Howard Center: Baird School Garden and Upkeep

Howard Center

Grant Amount $1,500

Howard Center is part of Vermont’s System of Care and has been designated by the state with the responsibility of helping thousands of Vermonters each year with services including lifesaving professional crisis and counseling for children and adults, supportive services to individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities, counseling and medical services for those struggling with substance use, and intensive interventions for adults with serious and persistent mental health challenges. Their mission is to improve the well-being of children, adults, families, and communities. Last year they helped 16,000 people - about one in every ten in Chittenden County.

Howard Center’s Baird School offers an alternative educational environment for children ages 5-14 years, grades K-8, providing multifaceted academic, emotional, and behavioral programming for students with significant challenges in these areas. The school partners with Chittenden County public schools, Vermont Department of Children and Families, and Vermont Agency of Education to provide referrals and connect children with the help and assistance they need to succeed in school. Beyond the academic year, the school provides summer camps and programming year-round. Many of the children and families served by Baird School are low-income and rely on the school to provide healthy, nutritious lunches and snacks while providing expansive, educational programming.

Howard Center’s Baird School works to have students collaborate with staff in the school garden to provide an integrative, hands-on learning experience where they can assist with growing plants and vegetables that will eventually be harvested and included in their school lunches. This garden includes 6 larger beds and 4 smaller beds that give students the capability to contribute to their local food system, learn about sustainability, and reduce waste. This project is requesting funds to expand the garden to yield more local plants and crops for school lunches and provide more opportunities for student engagement. Expansion would include purchasing additional gardening tools (trowels, hoses, storage carts, sprayers, rakes, gloves, big shovels, tomato stands), protective fencing against animals, seeds, and starter plants.

Staff and students will clear and prepare the gardens in late April, with planting beginning mid to late May. Garden upkeep will continue throughout the summer with harvesting as plants reach full maturation. These plants will be utilized in lunches and snacks throughout the summer programming at Baird, with surplus properly stored to be used into the school year.

Baird School’s gardens allow students to learn about their local ecosystem and food systems in the classroom, and then they are provided the opportunity to see these processes in action while contributing to the healthy food that they will eventually be eating. Students are able to see direct results of their learning efforts with the knowledge that they contributed to their school’s food system by increasing sustainability in an environmentally conscious manner.