In most schools, going out to the garden is not an option for all students. On a daily basis, the students at The Graham Academy are an active and vital part of the Graham Garden Program. The school seeks to provide its students with opportunities to place meaning to what is taught in the classroom. Students can explore the world in tangible ways to advance their cognitive, motor, social, and language skills. The Graham Garden is a proud recipient of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s 2018 Garden of Distinction Award and is something the students look forward to every day.
The students learn how to plan the garden area and prepare the space by assisting with planter box construction and installation. They add their own flare with paint and fun garden accents. The seeds are started indoors in early spring and then transplanted after the last frost. Through the curriculum, the students learn how to maintain the garden and help it prosper. Harvesting is a delightful time to be in the garden. Fresh strawberries, raspberries, and figs are just a few things that make you salivate when taking a stroll through the grounds at the school.
Once the students have harvested the food, they have two options; they could sell it or eat it. The Graham has found a unique way to incorporate both options throughout the school year. During the Extended School Year Program (ESY), students gather the produce and prepare the Graham Produce Stand to give them the experience of entrepreneurship and customer service. This opportunity continues into the Fall until the weather is no longer favorable. The stand is set up and managed by the students who learn how to market and sell their product. Math skills are taught in adding the selections and making change. Good customer service and communication allow for the students to generate profits for their hard work, all of which, goes back into the Garden Program.
The students also learn about the many ways meals can be prepared for them to enjoy eating the produce they worked so hard to grow. The experiential portion of the program allows for more than just working in the garden and getting your hands dirty. The students are encouraged to try new foods that are freshly picked and in new recipes. The kitchens at both schools are often used by classrooms to continue the experiential learning process from the garden to inside the building. Students with Autism often have picky diets. Different textures, smells, and rigidity can make it difficult to try new things. By the student participating in the whole process, the likelihood of them trying new foods is far greater. Daily living skills are taught throughout this whole process in the kitchen and garden. The students are also able to share the ‘fruits’ of their labor by making several different dishes for The Graham Academy Community Events. Parents and students are able to take the recipes home to hopefully make dishes in the future with their families.
Experiential learning is an integral part of the Graham Academy curriculum. The mission of The Graham Academy is to educate students living with autism and students living with emotional challenges to excel in life through communication, exploration, opportunity, acceptance, accountability, and ambition. The success of the program has been tremendous for both the school and the local community.
This ‘grounded’ and established program has been a positive experience for all involved. The Graham Produce Stand has been available to the local community for a few years now and is set up in The Graham Academy parking lot, located at 1 Institute Lane in Kingston. The dates and times the stand is open are listed below. Check out The Graham Academy’s Facebook page for updates on weekly selections and weather notices for the Produce Stand. Visit the website for more information on the school at www.thegrahamacademy.com.
If you are a local restaurant and are interested in produce from the Graham Garden Program, please contact Tara Quinn at 570-283-0641.
Tentative Hours of operation, weather pending, beginning July 9th, 2019: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 9:30-11:00am.
All produce is grown local and organically, meaning that no pesticides or fertilizers are used.
Current produce being harvested includes; Raspberries, Wild Sorrel, Borage, Mountain Mint, Welsh Onion, Beets, Basil, Thyme, Sage, and Oregano.
Produce soon to be ready for harvest includes; Cherry and Beefsteak Tomatoes, Cured Garlic, Cucumbers, Corn, Yellow Onions, Zucchini, Beans, Peas, Apples, Figs, Paw paw, Blueberries, Peaches, and Plums.