Another homegrown award for PDS

Courtesy of PDS

Courtesy of PDS

Vivek Kasubaga, Staff Writer

Princeton Day School is the recipient of yet another accolade. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture presented PDS with the “Best Garden” award in September, an event that has been celebrated a great deal since then. This is only the second time PDS has applied for the award, and close to 200 schools were considered. The award presentation took place during the fifth “Jersey Fresh Farm to School Award,” and was attended by the publisher of Edible Jersey Magazine and the Director of the New Jersey Farm to School Network, amongst others. This is the third award the PDS garden and sustainability programs have received this year, following the 2015 New Jersey Green Ribbon Award and the 2015 U.S. Department of Education National Green Ribbon Award in the spring of last school year. Since its creation eight years ago, the garden has long been a proud feature of PDS, being pointed out during school tours and utilized in the Upper School as well as Middle and Lower School classes.

“The community built it. And when the community takes time to build it, it’ll also take time to nurture it,” said Garden Coordinator Ms. Flory.

The first Garden Community Day was in the fall of 2007. “About 200 people came. They put up all the fences, built the [plant] beds, put the soil, so the community really did everything,” explained Ms. Flory.

The Garden Initiative has grown tenfold during its lifespan, extending itself to a series of maintained fields and a compost pile that all students have to maintain for a week each school year with their advisory.

In eight short years, Ms. Flory created an incredibly rich and deep curriculum, said Upper School English teacher and Sustainability Coordinator Liz Cutler. “I’m so excited to see what she does next.”

The student interaction with the garden was a key factor in the receiving of the award. This includes a Lower School Food and Garden club, a similar Middle School club, and the Garden Apprentice program, which is available to Upper School students and allows them the opportunity to help maintain the garden and “keep it sustainable,” in the words of Ms. Cutler. Every fall, PDS also hosts a Harvest Dinner, during which students help cook meals for PDS families, using ingredients from the garden. This year’s event boasted over 200 participants.

The application PDS submitted to the Department of Agriculture stressed not only the size of the garden, but also the efficiency and proper use of it. PDS-grown vegetables are used in our kitchen, the compost pile is tended to daily, and the Petrella Garden Classroom is used by classes to learn about efficiency and ecological sustainability. The garden’s integration with student life made it an obvious top contender for the award.

Although the garden is already impressive, Ms. Flory plans to improve it even more with the seed money that the award came with. New projects are already in the works. The Garden Apprentice Program, for example, has reached deeper into the roots of gardening, putting together a string of how-to videos and gardening tips, which are all hosted by Ms. Flory. The student-run project demonstrates just how much the community values its garden.

“I think it’s an important aspect of student life. It’s been there since I could remember,” said junior Nick Jain.