Community Service Projects

Senior Fare, Riley School, and Merry Gardens Estate Intergenerational Collaboration

By Former Lead Teacher and Curriculum Coordinator Carrie Braman

Riley School and Wayfinder Schools Students at the Garden Institute

Over the course of the past year, we’ve collaborated with numerous organizations to create an ongoing intergenerational mentoring and community service project at our Camden campus.  In September, we participated in service learning and leadership training seminars with Community Resources for Environmental Wellness (CREW), which included an overnight camping and canoeing expedition at Tanglewood 4H Camp.  The students gleaned key mentoring and facilitation skills from these sessions, knowledge that they later used in working with Todd Martin’s multi-age class at the Riley School.  The premise of this collaboration: intergenerational community gardening projects with Senior Fare at the Garden Institute, to benefit the cafeteria at Merry Gardens Estates, a low-income elder-care facility in Camden.  We also spent time learning about agriculture with Jeanne Hollingsworth at the Garden Institute, where we planted salad greens for a late fall harvest. Delivering these greens to seniors at Merry Gardens Estates was a highlight of our first semester!

During the winter, we met with Todd Martin and his Riley School students several times, painting signs for the garden and facilitating numerous food related activities.  We also explored senior food scarcity issues in math, social justice, and Green Initiative classes, using this as a lens for understanding the value of organizations like Senior Fare in the bigger picture.  (Our service project with Meals on Wheels in New York City provided additional fodder for discussion.)

In the spring, we designed garden beds for Senior Fare using companion planting principles.  With support from KIDS Consortium and Dara’s Fund (in memory of Dara Jeanne Kaufman, 1983-2006), we also helped start seedlings for these beds in early spring for a late spring harvest and turned over soil, moved compost, and collected seaweed for a second senior garden at 63 Washington Street.  Two days before graduation, we culminated these various collaborative service projects with a celebration tea at Merry Gardens Estates, bringing Riley School students, seniors, and Wayfinder Schools students together for homemade bread, sandwiches made with garden-fresh greens, and local mint tea.

Many thanks to Alison Lutz, our 2012-2013 Americorps Academic and Service Learning Specialist; Jeanne Hollingsworth of the Garden Institute and Senior Fare; Beedy Parker, organizer of the community garden at 63 Washington Street; Rose Swan of CREW; Todd Martin at the Riley School; Leah Trommer of Tanglewood; Claudia Quint at Merry Gardens Estates; and KIDS Consortium.  It was an incredible year of service here at the Wayfinder Schools and we couldn’t do it without these partnerships.

Seniors, Riley School and Wayfinder Schools at Celebration Tea