SPARK Sprouts

“plant the seed of knowledge”

SPARK Sprouts provides students opportunities to learn about environmental stewardship, sustainability, and good citizenship through gardening, both edible and ornamental. SPARK Sprouts is responsible for creating and maintaining various “green spots” both inside and outside on the SPARK campus, and including students (and their families) in the process. Teachers are encouraged to use the green spots for instructional and SEL purposes.

While farm to table is still a focus of SPARK Sprouts, we are expanding our vision to having our green spots be based on STEM and SEL principles. We will have different stages of the plant life cycle occurring throughout the school year for students to observe. Students will get to sample their harvests and take home plants, which means planting more winter/spring harvest plants. They will also learn about the different environmental conditions and human actions that affect plants and gardens and how to fix them. Plant guides will be posted in each green spot so students can learn to identify plants and how to use them and care for them.  View our SPARK Sprouts Garden Layout.

The purpose of the green spots is more than just having functional learning gardens. Adding color and enhancing nature on the SPARK campus will make the school seem less institutional and more welcoming to children. Student-made garden decorations, signage, and yard art will eventually be a part of every green spot. By including SPARK families in the process, it builds parent investment in the school and builds a greater sense of community.

SPARK Sprouts will have several family workdays each school year and parent volunteers will help with larger maintenance projects. Funding for SPARK Sprouts projects will come from the SPARK PTO, grants, and donations from local businesses.

SPARK Sprout Green Spots

  • Briarcliff Box – The Briarcliff Box is intended to be an ornamental garden that welcomes the community to SPARK with a combination of colorful seasonal annuals and metal artwork. Students can help with transplanting annuals twice a year.
  • Cafeteria Courtyard – The Cafeteria Courtyard will feature edible plants that provide color to the area and reduce the need for mulch in the tree boxes. Students can help with controlling the spread of the plants through natural methods and harvest herbs that they can take home to their families. Staff will also be encouraged to harvest the herbs for their personal use.
  • Hirsch House Garden – The Hirsch House Garden will feature a container garden with different edible plants (mostly herbs) for each grade. Students will help maintain the garden and will be able to sample their harvest. There will be sufficient room in the garden to add seating so the green spot can be used as an outdoor classroom, picnic area, or area for class parties.
  • 5th Grade Indoor Garden – The landing outside the 5th grade hallway will be an indoor garden featuring indoor plants and grow boxes. The grow boxes can be used for a variety of projects: starting seedlings for transplanting to the Rooftop Garden, indoor salad garden (lettuce, radishes, carrots, and herbs), and growing desk plants for staff members and SPARK Partners. Students can be involved in many ways with the indoor grow boxes.
  • Rooftop Garden – The Rooftop Garden will be a learning garden where students can work with plants by weeding, pruning, and transplanting. For the 2017-18 school year, the focus will be on the three interior raised beds. The two edible beds will be cleared out, rehabbed, and become the “SPARK Salad Bowl” beds that will focus on lettuce, carrots, radishes, and other components of salad. All the selected plants are winter and spring harvest so students should be able to sample our harvests second semester. The center bed will remain a pollinator garden. The exterior beds will remain succulent beds, except for the western wall, which will be exclusively for bee keeping.
  • Hallway/Classroom Houseplants – We can take advantage of the indoor grow boxes and the areas with lots of natural light to nurture houseplants to be used in hallways and classrooms. The succulents from the rooftop and the coleus from the Briarcliff box primarily will be used and then transplanted back outside.

2017-18 Project List

  • Briarcliff Box – Plant pansies/violets in the fall. Replace with coleus and vinca in the spring.
  • Cafeteria Courtyard – Plant more herbs and mulch.
  • Hirsch House
    • Finalize layout of container garden.
    • Create plan/budget for seating
  • Rooftop Garden
    • Remove all plants from edible garden and rehab soil.
    • Finish clean-up and remove all unnecessary items
    • Start new plants via seeds and seedlings from indoor grow boxes
    • Prune pollinator garden and plant new plants from grow box seedlings
    • Create plan for exterior boxes

    Note: The plan for the edible boxes is to plant only winter/spring harvest plants and tarp the boxes over the summer to reduce maintenance and to rehabilitate the soil.

  • Miscellaneous
    • Create plant guides
    • Create indoor plant maintenance plans
    • Set up regular volunteer schedule for rooftop garden
    • Create 2018-19 plans, including exterior rooftop boxes

Budget and Supplies
Since our funding is mostly coming from the PTO, we have involved them in the planning process to create a budget for supplies. The PTO will coordinate grant proposals based on these plans so garden expenditures won’t significantly impact the PTO’s operating budget. Our goal is to have $3000 in grants and PTO funding.

We are shifting from planting seedlings to growing our own seedlings, which will save money, as well as provide additional learning opportunities by adding seed germination and plant regeneration to our projects. Grantors will favor proposals that maximize value and educational impact and the PTO is confident our plans do both so we should have sufficient funding for our 2017-18 projects.

2017-18 Supply List

  • Seeds
  • Mulch
  • Garden Soil
  • Potting Soil
  • Pots
  • Liners
  • Gravel
  • Annuals for Briarcliff box
  • Tools: Rake, shears, tarps
  • Yard Waste Bags
  • Yard Art

Integration with Classroom Instruction
Our goal is to provide a wide variety of opportunities for teachers to use the green spots, from purely observational to hands-on activities. We have kept our project plans simple and flexible so we can easily adjust them to incorporate teacher preferences and participation. We will focus this school year on building a sustainable framework for the gardens and a garden program, evaluate what is working and what isn’t, and see how much teacher participation we receive in order to create a more comprehensive plan for the 2018-19 school year. We will maintain a Google doc with upcoming projects with a sign-up for classrooms. We will also have regular communication with the science leads so they can incorporate activities into their lesson plans.