Hello from Anna Nolin, Natick Public Schools, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching, Learning & Innovation

Welcome to School Year 2013-14 in the Natick Public Schools! It is my pleasure to serve the community in this new role.  Since beginning my new role in July, I have met with almost all of the district’s teacher leadership, school committee, community groups and parents to hear their perspectives on the Natick Schools and, most importantly, the future of our schools and community.

Any good blog keeps its audience informed and up to date while providing engaging and timely content.  This blog will not only update you on events in the Natick schools, it will highlight activities and achievements that illustrate the values of our school community–exemplary teaching, learning and parenting as well as examples of innovation in education, thinking, and parenting.  For those of you who already follow my Twitter feed, this blog will be a more descriptive version of what is posted there–keeping to similar themes.

I start this blog highlighting a couple of key items.  First, our staff is our greatest asset, and our thanks go out to teachers Judy Coleman, Heather Bishop, Denise Young, Kristen Stoetzel, Susan Kennedy, Cathy White, Kristin Zide, Marylynne Kerman, and Bev Melchiorri who took time from their summer vacations to train new staff at our math and literacy boot camps.  Such mentorship and modeling from experienced staff is critical to the success of our new staff.  Thank you, Ladies!

Next, I highlight a project that I believe showcases the strength and innovation of the Natick community in support of its youth:  The Ben-Hem Garden Project.   Recently, I met with the projects main supporters, and they shared with me the resources below which helped to launch and sustain the work.  This project is a symbol of all that we hope to achieve in the Natick Schools–projects that matter and have real-world applications, work that is difficult but not impossible to achieve because the support of community members strengthens the learning, sharing and power of the project.  Thank you to all involved and I love watching “Natick Grow” in this way.

Bennett-Hemenway’s Seed to Harvest Project

Ben-Hem in the Boston Globe

September 2013

Presentation on Garden Project

Ben-Hem’s Seed to Harvest Project is aligned with Natick Grows – a community group established in November 2012 that supports school and community gardens, compost and recycling programs, land stewardship, local food pantries and nutrition and wellness programs.

Seed to Harvest is truly a community effort. The project proposal, submitted by Ben-Hem parents Kathy Cappellano and Maureen McMahon was initially funded in April 2012 by the Natick Education Foundation (NEF). In April 2013 we secured addition funding from the NEF for garden enhancements including storage, installation of a perennial border garden, signage and seating.

Vice Principal Ben Gatto provides faculty and administrative guidance.  Over the last 18 months we have partnered with the town, community and local businesses to accomplish the following:

  • Installation of ten raised garden beds (9 of which were built in June 2012 from locally sourced pine with the help of parent volunteers). Windy-lo Nursery supplied loam at a discounted price and donated 4 yards. They accommodated our last minute request to change the delivery date allowing us to fill the beds a day early and avoid working in torrential rain the following day.

  • Natick Department of Public Works delivered wood chips to line garden paths.

  • Plants and materials were donated by Natick garden centers Fran’s Flowers, Tilly’s and Salvy’s Bacon Street Farm, and White Flower Farm of Connecticut.

  • Ben-Hem and Natick community members donated strawberry and late harvest raspberry plants, chives, mint, hosta, ferns, sedum, pea stone, a wheel barrow, a picnic table, umbrella and stand.

  • Daffodil and iris bulbs, rocks, and design consultation were donated by Ben-Hem parent Liz Strzetelski, of E. Bailey Garden Design.

  • Ben-Hem Girl Scout troops donated small gardening tools last fall. They also donated and planted tulip bulbs.

  • A Ben-Hem fourth grader surveyed third and fourth grade students on what to grow in their garden. Strawberries, carrots, watermelon and tomatoes were the top choices.

  • An irrigation system donated by Chris Pacheco of Metrowest Irrigation was installed in June 2013.

  • Strawberry plants, lettuce and an herb garden were planted and maintained by students in Ben-Hem’s ASAP Program led by volunteer teacher and horticulturist Helaine Chersonsky. Ms. Chersonsky was assisted by Natick resident, retired teacher and Master Gardener Bing Boucher.

  • Expertise and guidance provided by April Daley, Education Coordinator, Massachusetts Horticultural Society, the Master Gardeners Association, Molly Faulkner, Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom, and Kaila Binney, School Garden Coordinator, Island Grown Initiative, Martha’s Vineyard.

  • Ben-Hem parent and artist Kate Clancy, painted six colorful panels of fruits and vegetables for Ben-Hem’s float for the July Fourth Parade. Panels will be hung in the garden area.

  • Late harvest crops, i.e., brussel sprouts, lettuce, will be harvested and donated to the Natick Food Pantry as part of the second grade Thanksgiving Food Drive.

  • Students planted sunflowers for Ben-Hem art teacher Bree Curtis to take kindergarten students to the garden to sketch sunflowers as part of a Van Gogh lesson.

This project epitomizes authentic learning for children and allows them to use their 21st century skills to learn in an active manner.  I celebrate it!  Natick Grows is always looking for new members, so if you’re interested, please send me an email at annolin@natickps.org.



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