In the fall of 2018, Wells Middle School initiated a rooftop garden program with funding from its science department, DPIE, and parent donations.
For Priscilla Barton, electives teacher at WMS, the garden is a platform to learn about the lifecycle of plants and how to propagate them. Students learn sustainability principles, which they apply to building design, and they also get to practice sustainable living habits such as recycling, reuse, gardening, and composting.
"Gardening seems to be an ongoing learning experience, everything from pollination to weather patterns. It is also one of the types of things that you learn by doing. When children are empowered with knowledge they can not get in a normal classroom setting, their minds are opened up to new and creative ways of thinking," said Barton.
Ms. Barton's class has done labs where they compare the speed of composting between a tumbling composter and a worm composter and others where they regrow romaine lettuce from the stalk and compare that to one that has grown from seed. Other science classes are able to use the space for outdoor labs.
To add a technical element to the program, the class built components for the garden in a CAD system, which was also used to plan out their space and irrigation system.
"We also use solar power to run the irrigation system and we collect rainwater in barrels. For students to see how much water can be diverted from going down the drain, and used for irrigation, was a huge impact," continued Barton.
Before becoming a teacher, Ms. Barton worked as an Industrial Designer and Product Development Engineer. She has taught a variety of subjects in the Art and Math departments.