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Chantilly Montessori School ; A Lesson in Teamwork

“Maybe you could use this to pry it up off the ground,” suggested a parent, gesturing towards a fence post lying in a patch of weeds nearby. “Good idea”, I said, looking up, and wiping sweat from my face.  I had only made minimal progress with one corner of the first garden bed, the handle of my mattock creaking dangerously. Using the post as a lever on a cinderblock fulcrum sounded like a better idea than peanut butter and jelly, and I was willing to try anything that let me to stop and catch my breath for a minute.

It was a mild Saturday morning in late October, and beautification day at Chantilly Montessori School. Chantilly is serious about gardening. Each classroom has their own garden, in fact, and the series of over twenty raised beds meanders endlessly around the school building like a pumpkin vine.

“There is a big emphasis on hands-on learning in the Montessori program,” says Meritt Tracy, a Chantilly parent, and the head of the school’s garden club. “We want every student here to see firsthand where their food comes from, and it’s important that the kids to have the experience of growing their own food.”

Students, siblings, parents and grandparents worked in small groups pulling weeds, and clearing spent summer vegetable plants in preparation for fall varieties. I had been assigned to help relocate three raised beds to a new, sunnier location on the campus. The beds were stout ;  built using a common method of interlocking layers of burly 6’x6’ posts using reinforcing bar, and galvanized steel spikes.

The lever and fulcrum worked perfectly, and with a team of four lifting together, each of the garden beds was successfully moved to its new location, nestled beside a mobile unit on the front side of the campus.

As I waved goodbye to my new friends, and drove away to the next project, I couldn’t help but think how great it’d be if every school on the planet had a program like Chantilly Montessori, where kids could learn about something so basic and important as where food comes from firsthand...by growing it themselves.

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