Last night, I went to the school committee meeting in order to formally present our community's desire to dedicated The Garden at BCHMCPS to retiring principal, Ken Keenan. Here is the public comment that I made at the school committee meeting.
My son has had the privilege of attending the elementary charter school when it was in Marstons Mills and we followed it across town to the old Hyannis East building. I was asked in the fall of 2010 to become the Project Coordinator for a new endeavor between the school, the Barnstable Recreation Division and the Mid-Cape Farmer’s Market. It was to create an organic school based garden.
Since then, the Garden has become a reality. The garden’s perimeter measures 245 linear feet. It will connect over 400 children of diverse demographics and socioeconomic status to the outdoors and nature. With more than 30 raised beds, The Garden at BCHMCPS will contain assorted organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Currently planned crops include tomatoes, various potatoes, beans, strawberries, blueberries, carrots, lettuces, cucumbers and herbs. These will be planted, harvested and sold weekly at the Mid-Cape Farmer’s Market throughout the year in the HYCC’s parking lot, adjacent to the school. Crops will be in production during the Spring, Summer and Fall months
The garden offers learning on multiple levels. Some of the learning opportunities provided by The Garden at BCHMCPS include discovering where food comes from, composting and worm farming, agricultural techniques and skills, responsibility, financial aspects of running a business, counting and sorting crops, art opportunities, journal keeping, problem solving, teamwork and building relationships. In addition to these goals, we are also attempting to combat childhood obesity and encourage children to make healthier dietary choices. We plan to integrate produce from the garden into our school’s lunches, provide tastings and host guest chefs for healthy cooking demonstrations.
Our leadership team is comprised of members of the health care field, local farmers, landscapers, educators, various school personnel including the head of Dining Services and School Facilities manager, local community volunteers, town officials and master gardeners. In addition, we are fortunate to have the support and partnership of local businesses including Emerald Physicians, Bass River Pediatrics, Massachusetts Audubon-Long Pasture, Ocean Song Farm, Cape Cod Organic Farm, Country Gardens, Barnstable County’s Healthy Connected Cape Cod Project, AmeriCorps, Slow Food, and The Cape Cod Organic Gardeners, Reliable Fencing and Pine Harbor Sheds.
Over the course of our planning, it soon became evident that our work with the garden has mirrored the work and accomplishments of Mr. Keenan’s long career within the Barnstable school system. Through his dedication and commitment to the schools, he has helped to shape and form the schooling experience in Barnstable.
When he first began at the charter school some years ago, he took the newly formed school from its beginnings and transformed it into a success story to be proud of. Like planting seeds and watching them grow, he nurtured the students, faculty and staff in a positive educational environment with guidance and support. When it was time to move across town, with the utmost care, he enthusiastically led us into the unknown. Our school is thriving. Our enrollment is at capacity and waiting lists exist. Our Garden is in its beginning stages. Mr. Keenan is at the end of his career in the Barnstable School system. It is the desires of the school community, students, the garden committee, faculty and staff that we dedicate our Garden to Mr. Keenan. It is symbolic of his work within the schools. It mirrors his career. Mr. Keenan is a role model and his dedication to the students and the school should be recognized.
As we till the soil, we hope that the garden dedication will serve to remind us of Mr. Keenan’s legacy. It will serve to remind us what we can achieve with hard work. Remind us about patience; remind us about unity and partnerships. It will remind us of the impact that he has had on thousands of individuals who have had the pleasure of working with him.