Ecological concerns have always been important issues at Salford Hills. We’ve celebrated Earth Day in some way for over a decade. Our teachers share with students the necessity of promoting a balance between "man" and "environment". Students practice "earth-friendly" habits by recycling paper, some cardboard, lunch products, and plastics. But going green will take on new meaning this spring.

First, a little history. Inspired by two students who saw a need in our school to share environmentally friendly habits, we formed our C.R.O.P.S. (Cultivating Responsible Options for Positive Sustainability) committee. Soon, lunch procedures changed and recycling efforts doubled. Students participated in a trash-free snack day. Also important to our activities was initiating a vegetable garden which, in addition to having great educational value, we would be able to grow produce to swap and share in the summer. Assisted by local businesses, volunteers, and a few small grants, we grew peas, radishes, and lettuce. Pumpkin pies made by Salford Hills fifth graders using our own garden pumpkins and a few kind donations from families were served during lunch last fall.

Encouraged by our success, plans have expanded, and so has our garden! Once again, we plan to honor Earth Day by facilitating a number of activities and crafts. We continue to teach children about man’s effect on the environment. However, our plans for the garden have changed dramatically. Assisted by a local business that provided machines, manpower, and lots of mulch, our Salford Hills Community Garden now features two plots; a 20x20 squash and pumpkin patch as well as a 50x50 vegetable garden. Our hope is that by expanding our garden we will multiply our production of fruits and vegetables supplementing lunches for our students, for our families through summer swaps, and for local food pantries. The garden is an expanded "outdoor classroom" as well offering hands on educational opportunities and supplementing our science and ecology curriculum.

Clearly we could not attempt such a venture alone. A number of grants assist us financially. Local businesses have responded with materials and manpower. Most importantly, we have community support within our school. Ten parents volunteered to aid our Earth Day activities, fifteen for spring planting, and over thirty will help in the summer by weeding, watering, and harvesting. 

Our C.R.O.P.S. initiative presents many opportunities. The educational benefits are obvious. Important also is that the garden is a focal point for our school community to come together. Much like our Community Day a few weeks ago, here our families meld as we work toward a common goal. Additionally, we teach children the importance of helping others in our broader community, assisting those in need through food donations. Lastly, I believe that we have a calling in education to share with children that they are connected to a larger world. It’s a world where individuals and families and community must work together in harmony with nature and our environment. Our garden teaches the benefits of working together and social responsibility, a character counts trait that you just don’t learn from a book. Hopefully, using a trowel or weeding and sprinkling or collecting vegetables or taking food donations to a food bank will help students become the dedicated citizens we all desire for our children.