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Salisbury Academy students help Oak Park residents plant garden

Gardeners who spanned generations worked side-by-side at Oak Park Retirement Community last week planting seeds and making strong connections.
Salisbury Academy seventh-grade students partnered with residents of Oak Park Retirement Community to be their hands and feet as they planted tomatoes, peppers, squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, onions — and marigolds to help keep the bugs away.
The vegetables will be harvested and used in the Oak Park kitchen for residents’ meals.
“This project provided important cross-generational time for connecting and communicating with the residents,” said teacher Katie Reefe. “Our students jumped right in and started digging holes and planting seedlings.”
Reefe said the residents appreciated the help and students enjoyed the opportunity.
“The students were so proud of their work and asked if they could come and see how the garden was doing in a few weeks,” she said. They also want to return next year and spend more time with the residents.
“It was fun because it was a real life lesson,” said student William Lutz. “Gardening and getting to know our elders isn’t something most kids get to do at school. I hope we get to go back.”
“I enjoyed being able to do something different. It felt good to be able to help others,” said student Sarah Clifton.
Karen Leonard, activities director for Oak Park, praised the partnership with Salisbury Academy.
“The residents enjoyed spending time with the students and helping to plant the garden. It is definitely a garden sown with heart,” said Leonard.
Gardening brings back fond memories, according to Oak Park resident Anne Hollifield.
“My family always had a garden and I always worked in the garden after school every day,” Hollified said. “I think having a garden is the most wonderful thing in the world. It’s a good teaching tool for young people because it teaches us to appreciate hard work, nature and fun.”
Such experiences are a regular part of the Salisbury Academy curriculum, which provides an innovative learning environment that prepares students to enter their future world as leaders. “As part of our mission, students are encouraged to serve their community. This was a wonderful opportunity to show service,” said Academic Administrator Beverly Fowler.
“This to me is what Salisbury Academy is all about,” said Reefe. “What seems like a simple garden could turn out to be the beginning of a strong connection between these two communities.”

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