Over the past few years, St. Thomas Aquinas has supercharged its fundraising with its “Spring to Auction” (STA) Event in April of every year. As a result, it has raised significant funds that it can directly and visibly put to work in the School. The Giving Garden is an example of such. The Giving Garden opened in August 2017 as a direct and immediate use of funds from the 2017 “Spring to Auction” Event and it has already contributed greatly to the school. It certainly embodies how a school community can come together and benefit the school and its children over the short and long-term.
The Giving Garden was designed and constructed by Homefront Farmers LLC who spent a lot of time with the St. Thomas community to determine the best assortment of crops and flowers to provide learning, service and community opportunities for the School. John Carlson and Miranda Gould from Homefront Farmers, the School faculty and parent community led by gardener extraordinaire and School parent, Kristyn Golier, developed and executed on a great curriculum in the Fall. In fact, in the Fall, the Giving Garden touched over 100 of our students or close to 30% of the school population and the broader community with a wide assortment of wonderful programs such as:
- Salad Kit Construction - - 7th and 8th grade students harvested over 100 bags of lettuce and assembled them with the key ingredients to make salad in individual bags, all of which were delivered and donated to Operation Hope and the Bridgeport Rescue Mission
- Pickling of Radishes and Beets – The array of red coloration filled the pickling jars assembled from the picking, chopping and mixture of these crops by 4th, 5th and 6th grade students. These labeled jars said thank you to our 25 Veterans who were honored at our Veterans Day event for their services to the red, white and blue.
- Have you Herbed of St. Thomas? – The younger classes got a taste of the spices that accent our meals with the picking and assembly of parsley, sage, thyme and many more herbs. The children carefully packaged the herbs in labeled containers which were then handed out to the churches and nursery schools in town.
- Cooking Frittatas with Brick + Wood - The spinach from our Giving Garden was the backdrop to a wonderful after school cooking class led by school parent and owner of Brick + Wood, Clara Cavalli. With fresh eggs donated by another school family, the Sargents, and the spacious parish kitchen nearly 20 students got a taste of what it takes to be a world class chef (and they all loved the spinach)!
- Other activities included the (i) the planting of garlic, appropriately the day after Halloween, (ii) the cultivation of Spring daffodils by the second graders preparing for Communion - the bouquets will soon be harvested to decorate the church; and (iii) “straw”-ing of the garden by our littlest students (K and Pre-K) where they got to close the garden and make hay without getting in trouble.
- The garden also provided many other attractions for learning including yarrow for Native American medicinal study and a fluffy, large caterpillar that became a school mascot for a few days.
Spring is just around the corner (we hope!) and the parents, teachers and Homefront Farmers have a number of wonderful activities for the Giving Garden. We hope to continue its mission of educating our students and providing gifts to the broader community through some special programs including a special Spring Speaker Series. Outside experts on raised bed gardening (Homefront Farmers), importance of organic gardening and composting, and bee keeping will speak to our students, faculty and parent community. In addition, we will continue to harvest and donate the abundance of crops, herbs and flowers in the Giving Garden. With the addition of beans, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, carrots, celery and cucumber there will be a lot of action for our salad kits. And Clara Cavalli will be back with her cooking class. Visit us at St. Thomas and see what we are up to in our Giving Garden!