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About the Program:

Thetford Elementary School began gardening at school in 2007 with seven raised beds. In 2011, the school began composting all food scraps in an on-site, student-managed, hot-composting system, ultimately saving the school 75% of waste removal fees as well as providing all of the soil amendments (finished compost) needed to fertilize our ever-expanding school gardens. In 2022 the schoolyard hosts seventeen raised garden beds filled with vegetables and flowers, a peach tree, two pear trees, four apple trees, a raspberry patch, blueberry hill, and an annual pumpkin patch. 

Each year, K - 6 students start seeds indoors and care for them until planting time, plant and harvest their classroom or lunchroom gardens, and participate in an annual fruit harvest and cider pressing. All of the produce is used in our school kitchen as a contribution to our school lunch program.

Grades K - 2 have thematic gardens aligned with the classroom lessons. Grade 3 and 4 students manage the schoolyard fruit trees and berry bushes, learning about perennial life cycles, photosynthesis, composting basics, and how to prepare foods using our mobile kitchen cart. Grade 5 and 6 students manage the collection of daily food scraps and compost deposits, collecting data that informs future math and science curriculum. Our Soil Science unit allows students to develop an understanding of how managing food waste is related to climate change solutions, and how healthy, living soil influences the impacts of flooding and drought in our landscapes.

Our year-round gardening and composting programs provide students with a hands-on, accessible pathway to understanding that healthy foods provide nutrition, well-being and energy for healthy students, and that the energy cycle of food is a continuous process that we call the “TES Food Loop”.


About the Teacher:

Cat Buxton is a busy cross-pollinator from in Sharon, VT focused on ecosystem resilience. Her business, Grow More, Waste Less, is empowering and connecting communities to affect positive change from the ground up. A self-described microbe geek, Cat loves to talk about bugs, soil, gardening, and composting, pretty much wherever she goes. She manages the edible schoolyard at Thetford Elementary School, weaving it into K-6 project based learning, and is a technical guide for school compost systems. She leads Land Listener workshops with the Soil Carbon Coalition, and organizes the Upper Valley Apple Corps and a host of other projects including the Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition. She consults, teaches, and presents about soil and ecosystem health to individuals of all ages and groups of all sizes.