School’s green project gets high marks

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Fran Maye fmaye@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @ken­nettpa­per on Twit­ter

Of­fi­cials from the U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion’s an­nual Green Strides Tour vis­ited Pat­ton Mid­dle School.

Over the years, Charles F. Pat­ton Mid­dle School has won sev­eral awards for its “green” ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing a Green Rib­bon award last year, one of only a few schools na­tion­wide to re­ceive that honor. Now, state and na­tional of­fi­cials are notic­ing the im­pact the pro­gram is hav­ing on the com­mu­nity.

Of­fi­cials from the U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion’s an­nual Green Strides Tour vis­ited Pat­ton Mid­dle School ear­lier this week to view all the green ini­tia­tives and real-world learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

David Bau­man, direc­tor of Green Rib­bon Schools for the state De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, said he was amazed to see the green ac­com­plish­ments at Pat­ton.

“This is ab­so­lutely phe­nom­e­nal,” Bau­man said. “You are mak­ing con­nec­tions from food to ta­ble, and it’s in­cred­i­ble re­al­world lessons. You are push­ing the bound­aries of col­lab­o­ra­tion from stu­dents, teach­ers, and com­mu­nity. It doesn’t get any bet­ter than that.”

The gar­den project at Pat­ton in­cludes a so­lar-pow­ered green­house, two dozen raised beds, com­post bins, hy­dro­ponic tanks, drip-line ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems, out­door class­rooms and high tun­nels that will ex­tend the grow­ing sea­son for plants like let­tuce.

The project was funded by Tri-M Elec­tri­cal So­lu­tions of Ken­nett Square. Tri-M in­stalled the so­lar pan­els to power the green­houses that pro­vide up to 500 watts, the con­trol unit, mois­ture sen­sors to gauge soil con­di­tions, an au­to­matic wa­ter sys­tem and a real time video cam­era, ac­cord­ing to Tri-M’s Joel Smith. All in­for­ma­tion is cloud-based and can be viewed on­line.

Fam­ily and con­sumer sci­ence teach­ers Betsy Bal­lard and Kim­berly Hisler started the Pat­ton Gar­den Project in 2010 with a few raised-bed gar­dens, and it has ex­panded each year. To­day, let­tuce har­vested from the gar­dens is used in the district’s lunch pro­gram, and much of the pro­duce goes to the Ken­nett Area Food Cup­board. Bal­lard said that al­most 20,000 pounds of food have been do­nated to the Ken­nett Area Food Cup­board and Safe Har­bor in West Ch­ester from the Pat­ton gar­den.

Phoebe Kit­son-Davis of the Ch­ester County Food Bank said there are more than 600 gar­den beds around Ch­ester County, and half of them are on school grounds.

“There are 500,000 peo­ple who live in Ch­ester County, and 7 per­cent live at the poverty level or be­low,” Kit­son-Davis said. “Those peo­ple strug­gle to feed their fam­i­lies. Ken­nett Area Com­mu­nity Ser­vice re­ceives the bulk of this. In Unionville, 5 per­cent are on free and re­duced lunch, and in Ken­nett (school district), it’s 40 per­cent. Their ac­cess to get free and healthy food is a chal­lenge. This gar­den pro­vides sup­port to those low-

in­come fam­i­lies.” Marie Wick­er­sham, food ser­vice direc­tor for the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, said the gar­den pro­gram is a valu­able ed­u­ca­tional les­son for stu­dents.

“Food doesn’t mag­i­cally ap­pear on our ta­bles,” she said. “We have to get kids to un­der­stand it’s grown in the ground and has to be har­vested. We need kids to un­der­stand how food is pro­duced and brought to the ta­ble.”

Su­per­in­ten­dent John Sanville said he was im­pressed with the ad­vances made in Pat­ton’s green project.

“The Pat­ton gar­den project is all that is right and good in ed­u­ca­tion to­day,” he said. “It’s the part­ner­ship with the com­mu­nity and it’s the en­ergy of the stu­dents. The con­sumer sci­ence de­part­ment here at C.F. Pat­ton Mid­dle School is bar none, if not the best in Penn­syl­va­nia, the best in the United States.”

Pat­ton Prin­ci­pal Ti­mothy Hoff­man said the gar­den project demon­strates col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween school of­fi­cials and the com­mu­nity.

“The Pat­ton gar­den project is all that is right and good in ed­u­ca­tion to­day. It’s the part­ner­ship with the com­mu­nity and it’s the en­ergy of the stu­dents. The con­sumer sci­ence de­part­ment here at C.F. Pat­ton Mid­dle School is bar none, if not the best in Penn­syl­va­nia, the best in the United States.” — Su­per­in­ten­dent John Sanville

FRAN MAYE — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

From left: Kim Hisler, Betsy Bal­lary and Phoebe Kit­son-Davis at the raised bed gar­den at C.F. Pat­ton Mid­dle School. The so­lar panel is in the back­ground.

Betsy Bal­lard, con­sumer sci­ence teacher, points to some of the veg­eta­bles be­ing grown in the green­house on the grounds of C.F. Pat­ton Mid­dle School.

Joel Smith of Tri-M Elec­tric, op­er­ates an elec­tri­cal panel that con­trols the ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem in­side the new green­house.

Tim Hoff­man, prin­ci­pal at C.F. Pat­ton Mid­dle School, right, and Joel Smith of Tri-M Elec­tric, point out the ad­van­tages of a new so­lar-pow­ered green­house on the school grounds.

FRAN MAYE — DIG­I­TAL FIRSAT ME­DIA

CJ McClure, a Unionville stu­dent, stands near a com­post shed he built for the C.F. Pat­ton Mid­dle School green­house project.

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