When the pandemic sent students home last spring, Mr. Ragan and Mr. Costanzo had a problem— how would they conduct their usual May Term gardening course with all of their students working from home? You see normally, May Term is an immersive educational experience that allows a teacher to teach the same group of students on topics they are passionate about for six days, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. That clearly, wasn’t going to be the case this year.
Enter “Get Out and Grow!”, a day of hands-on instruction for students starting their own patio or yard gardens at home! Weeks before the course, Mr. Costanzo and Mr. Ragan sorted and planted hundreds of seeds in their homes to “start” plants for students who needed them. As May Term neared, Middle School families filled out wish lists of preferred plants and seeds. The teachers then distributed dozens of custom boxes filled with tomato, squash, pumpkin, cucumber, broccoli, basil, sunflower, lemon balm and pepper plants, as well as seeds for lettuce, potatoes, and other herbs and flowers. The boxes were placed physically distanced a part in the school parking lot and families drove up to find their box.
During the four May Term days, Mr. Costanzo and Mr. Ragan co-hosted the course on Zoom from their own gardens, getting down into the dirt to demonstrate gardening techniques such as planting seeds and transplanting starts. Students were given time to work on their own gardens, and, by day’s end, most were off and growing. By mid-summer, they sent photos of vining beans, staked tomato plants, squash plants out of control, and budding peppers! Not long after came shots of red, yellow, and orange tomatoes of all sizes, and basil as a bonus! Next came green peppers turning red, and, as summer waned, pumpkins turning orange. In October, pounds of potatoes were dug up, and the tomatoes kept growing, for some, right into November. One student posted the mashed potatoes she made, and others showed off baskets filled with their harvests.
Mr. Costanzo and Mr. Ragan thank all of the students and their families who participated in their May Term and discovered or reignited their joy for gardening.
We hope that this year will have been the first of many great harvests!
Watch Mr. Ragan, Mr. Costanzo, and Mr. Hopkins starring in “The Tomato Snatcher II: COVID Edition”!
Andrew RaganAndrew came to teach Middle School History at Allendale Columbia School after 20 years in educational publishing and living in Pittsburgh, New York City, Los Angeles, Toronto, and the Adirondacks. He began writing for young people at Junior Scholastic magazine and has since published hundreds of articles in such magazines as JS, Scholastic News, Disney Adventures, Creative Classroom, and more. After teaching freshman composition at the University of Southern California for several years, Andrew served as the Senior Editor for Disney Adventures Magazine. He earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and Communications, with honors, from Carnegie Mellon University and his master's degree in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.
Gabriel CostanzoAs an instrumental music teacher at Allendale Columbia School, Gabe teaches 4th Grade Band, 5th Grade Band, Concert Band, Jazz Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, and Music Theory. He held the David M. Pynchon Chair in the Visual and Performing Arts from 2008 - 2013 and is a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. He earned bachelor's degrees in Music Education and Music Composition from SUNY College at Fredonia and a master's degree in Music Composition from Bowling Green State University. You can also find him on horn and vocals for the local band The Buddhahood.
Posted in: Authentic Learning, Highlights, Middle School