Not only is Frelinghuysen Middle School going to be a little bigger this fall, it's expected to get a little greener, as well.
In collaboration with Grow it Green Morristown, plans have been drawn up to create a 2,000 square foot garden on the sprawling West Hanover Avenue property, which will be used by students as both an outdoor classroom as well as a source of produce.
Carolle Huber, one of the co-founders of Grow it Green and a landscape architect by trade donated her design services to the school after her and Shaun Ananko--the farm manager at Grow it Green Morristown's Urban Farm at Lafayette--discussed possible projects with FMS Principal Mark Manning last spring.
"2012 was the first year Frelinghuysen students came to the Urban Farm," Huber said. Classes had previously just been offered to Morris School District elementary school students. "They got excited about it."
Based on their talks, Manning asked, "how can we partner with Grow it Green in a way that could help our kids better understand the idea of gardening, composting and, really, sustainability?"
All those aspects are expected to be covered with the garden. Plans include 10 raised beds surrounded by an outdoor classroom space, which Huber said could be used not only for lessons focused on the garden but for any opportunity for teachers to bring their students out into the fresh air on a nice day. Any produce produced by the garden will be donated, either to community organizations like the Community Soup Kitchen or possibly to families in the Morris School District.
All this of course comes at a cost. While initial estimates were around $12,000, Manning said that only included materials, not labor or other unexpected costs. The school, however, is well on its way to raising that and more, with $11,000 already being committed through grants from BASF and the Morris Educational Foundation.
The school has also been reaching out to landscapers and, "are hoping for some generous donations," he said. Ananko also has committed to share some of his time to partner with the project during winter months and classes are being created for the district's Community School "Summer Plus" program.
With construction of six new classrooms at FMS expected to run through until the end of summer 2013, Manning said the garden is likely to be built starting this fall, with its first plantings in spring 2014.
Like the produce expected to be donated to the community, the principal said he hopes the project's creation also will be a community effort.
"Our overarching initiative is to imbue students with an understanding of the value of community service," he said, noting the students also could be involved in building the garden, where appropriate.
Pretty much anyone, if interested, is encouraged to let Manning and the district know they want to help in creating a garden at the middle school. "This is not just a Frelinghuysen Middle School project," he said.