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How to make a garden bloom at Guilford Elementary/Middle

AgricultureUniversity of Maryland, College ParkArable Farming

In "Harvest of disappointment: Good intentions weren't enough to make a garden thrive at on Baltimore school," (November 23), Bess Keller wrote a compassionate and thorough account of the garden project at Guilford Elementary/Middle School — lessons learned about deficiencies in processes. I would like to make a few suggestions for the future of the garden project.

•Overall Goal: Increased educational experience and development of new skills that can one day be applied in creating new small businesses or working in high tech jobs at existing corporations and laboratories — and to increase "a chance at a decent life."

•Recruit a volunteer, experienced project manager/project management professional for the project to mentor the student and adult volunteer team and to introduce them to the components of a project. Include creation of project goals and objectives; project work plan; defining project roles, including coordinating with the volunteer master gardeners; process mapping; risk assessment and mitigation; timeline vis a vis the growing season; execution; monitoring and management; change control; financial monitoring and budget control; harvest and closure; and lessons learned. Requirements would include support for, involvement in, and monitoring of the progress of the project by the principal. Establishment of quality control processes by operational team members could be mentored by the quality professional in step three below. Another requirement would be involvement of school security (possibly including simple video monitoring of the garden area) and Baltimore City Police routine patrols in preventing vandalism to the project and theft of tools; storage of tools inside the main school building would be preferable. A dynamic and charismatic scientific team lead and lead master gardener would also be most productive.

•Introduction of the students and other team members to the basic components of a quality management system by a volunteer quality professional. Includes process mapping; risk assessment, management, and mitigation; standard procedures; internal audits; corrective and preventive action and true root cause analysis for audit observations and quality issues; effectiveness checks; metrics; and management review meetings.

•Advanced/enriched scientific instruction by volunteer science teachers from the school: selection of crops, their soil, water, fertilizer, and sunlight/day length requirements; soil components, structure, and chemistry (including pH); the scientific method; botany, including plant life cycles, structure and morphology, and microscopic examination of plant tissues — either prepared microscope slides or student-stained and fixed slides; photosynthesis; weed control; organic farming techniques versus traditional farming techniques. I would recommend a lecture by a guest presenter from Maryland Organic Food and Farming Association, and from the University of Maryland Extension Service.

•Donation of the harvested vegetables to the Maryland Food Bank, or consumption in the cafeteria. Consider a final assembly and meal at which members of the team can be recognized by the student body and teachers.

•Entry on the student team members' permanent academic record of their participation in this project, and of the advanced/enriched scientific instruction and instruction in project management and quality management systems that they received. Entry in the personnel records of the volunteer teachers a careful description of their contributions to this project, for consideration during annual personnel reviews.

Richard Shannahan, Lutherville

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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