School’s green project gets high marks
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
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.
CJ McClure, a Unionville student, stands near a compost shed he built for the C.F. Patton Middle School greenhouse project.