Sippican Elementary School students exchange scissors for seeds

May 11, 2024

MARION — Third-grade students at Sippican Elementary School put their pencils down and took a break from the classroom on Thursday, May 9, spending some time outside sharpening their gardening skills.

Nate Sander, manager of Marion Institute’s Grow Education Program, taught students how to properly plant seeds and layer mulch and straw.

Sippican Elementary School is in its first year of collaboration with the Marion Institute as part of the Grow Education Program, according to Sander.

Sander said that next year the school will be assigned a food course service member that will help further embed the program into the school’s curriculum.

The Grow Education Program currently works with 23 schools across four districts.

“This site is special because this garden was totally redone last summer,” said Sander. “We tore out the old beds, relocated soil up onto the hill in preparation for a native plant garden.”

The native plant garden will feature 40 varieties of wildflowers that serve as host plants for pollinators like butterflies, moths and hummingbirds, according to Sander.

Sander said that one of his favorite parts about the Grow Education program is getting the chance to build an understanding of local food systems for students.

“I like connecting these dots for young people,” said Sander. “It's a huge disconnect, so many people are not engaged in that process.”

Sander praised the Sippican Elementary School students he worked with, describing them as “inquisitive, bright and engaged.”

Sixth-grade students who did not attend an overnight field trip assisted Sander with the tasks of the day.

“I’ve always been a hands-on learner,” said Sander. “Some of the kids who don't do as well in the traditional classroom setting actually come out here and thrive. It's important for them to step out of their comfort zone and get their hands dirty.”