Intermediate School celebrates community garden

State and local officials celebrated the dedication of the Shelton Intermediate School Community Garden. State Sen. Kevin Kelly (R-21), Superintendent Freeman Burr, Mayor Mark Lauretti, School Headmaster Kenneth Saranich and science teacher Eric Wolf cut the ribbon in front of the garden. — Kate Czaplinski

Slices of cafeteria pizza, made with school-grown tomatoes and garlic, a drive-up farm stand for parents and an outdoor classroom for kids are just a few of the goals and objectives for the Shelton Intermediate School’s Community Garden.

Students have been planting, weeding and learning about gardening since the garden began last March, through the effort of staff, the school’s PTO, community garden enthusiasts, and a grant from the Valley Community Foundation.

The garden dedication and ribbon cutting was held last Wednesday. Guests included school officials, elected members of the Board of Education and Board of Aldermen, state Sen. Kevin Kelly, state Rep. Jason Perillo, and Mayor Mark Lauretti.

“Ironically enough, it started with a little seed of an idea and it’s amazing how it’s grown,” Headmaster Kenneth Saranich said. “The first few beds are down there and I’ve even taken some zucchini home with me because we had so much.”

Shelton Intermediate School science teacher Eric Wolf saw a similar school project on the Internet years ago and knew he wanted to bring the idea to Shelton. The school has a garden club that meets once a week and does some of the work. Enrichment classes are also held in the garden.

“We have a number of goals for getting what we grow to the community,” Wolf said.

Sodexho, the school district’s cafeteria vendor, has been on board with incorporating vegetables grown in the garden into the school menu.

“Even if it’s one day of local, Shelton foods — so students can taste the difference,” Wolf said.

The project has also spurred schoolwide composting. All food waste from the cafeteria will be composted.

Guests at the dedication included school officials, elected members of the Board of Education and Board of Aldermen, state Sen. Kevin Kelly, state Rep. Jason Perillo, and Mayor Mark Lauretti.

“This is very symbolic,” Kelly said. “We are planting seeds today for tomorrow’s harvest.”

Kelly presented the school with a citation from the Connecticut General Assembly, introduced by Jason Perillo, recognizing the school’s effort.

Superintendent Freeman Burr said the garden will promote student learning and also fits in perfectly with the Valley Initiative to Advance Health and Learning in Schools (VITAHLS). Valley districts, including Shelton, are moving toward healthier options and menus in the school cafeteria.

“We are very excited about the garden and this is just the first step,” Burr said.

Mayor Lauretti pledged financial support from the city to help the garden keep going. He noted that Shelton High used to have a garden and greenhouse it used for classes.

“I’m really heartened to see this kind of initiative return,” Lauretti said.

The future goals for garden growth include planting 20 to 30 beds and eventually putting up a lean-to greenhouse. Parents and staff have also discussed a chicken coop with eggs. Not only can students eat what they grow, but the pumpkins will be integrated into an upcoming class project. Student will be launching the pumpkins from trebuchets.

“This is a great community process,” Wolf said. “It’s only been six month and we have a citation from the state. I can’t wait to see what happens in another six months, or another six years from now.”