2016-12-02 / Front Page

Garden of learning

Wentworth School project on its way to becoming an outdoor classroom
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


Paul Koziell, chief operating officer of CPM Contractors, looks on with his son Nicholas, a fourth-grader at Wentworth School, as Abe Sherling uses a skid steer to unload granite that will, in time, be part of a learning area in the school’s garden. The outdoor classroom is but one of the visions garden organizer’s have for the space. (Michael Kelley photo) Paul Koziell, chief operating officer of CPM Contractors, looks on with his son Nicholas, a fourth-grader at Wentworth School, as Abe Sherling uses a skid steer to unload granite that will, in time, be part of a learning area in the school’s garden. The outdoor classroom is but one of the visions garden organizer’s have for the space. (Michael Kelley photo) Wentworth School was built and opened in 2014 to give third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students a better learning environment, but also to provide some community space for the public to use.

To that end, Scarborough Community Services uses space in the school for before and afterschool care, as well as a way for senior citizens to gather for socialization and games through the 55+ program. GymDandies, Scarborough’s famed children’s circus is headquartered from the school and a number of community groups use it for meeting space and other events.


Students pepper Paul Koziell, chief operating officer of CPM Contractors, with questions from a balcony above Wentworth School’s garden, where his company recently donated seven granite slabs to serve as an outdoor classroom. (Michael Kelley photo) Students pepper Paul Koziell, chief operating officer of CPM Contractors, with questions from a balcony above Wentworth School’s garden, where his company recently donated seven granite slabs to serve as an outdoor classroom. (Michael Kelley photo) The community-centric vision for the school also extends to the outdoor garden that fills a section of green space next to the playground.

Principal Kelly Crosby said the goal of garden is to offer much more than just a space where students can grow vegetables, flowers and other plants. The first phase of the project, which was completed last year, included the planting of the garden, as well as outfitting it with a shed, informational kiosk and picnic tables.

Phase 2 of the project, which recently got underway, includes transforming the space from simply a garden to an outdoor classroom. Since the garden opened last fall, many of the school’s teachers have been bringing their students to the garden for hands-on learning opportunities from math to science to art.

“There is no subject you can’t teach in the garden. You can do just about everything,” Karin Kelly, one of the garden’s organizers told the Leader last December.

Paul Koziell, a Wentworth parent and Chief Operating Officer of CPM Constructors, was on hand this week to deliver and install seven granite slabs the company donated to the school. The granite slabs will be used for an outdoor seating area where classes can come to learn in the garden.

“CPM’s involvement has really been an on-going commitment to the school,” Koziell said of his construction company, which has contributed money and served as a consultant for the garden project. Both he and fellow owner Tim Ouellette played an integral part in planning and designing the new school building, which opened in September 2014.

Wentworth teacher Catherine Hewitt, who teaches third-grade, fourth-grade and fifth-grade students, said the installation of the outdoor classroom space gels with a project she is working on with her professional learning team that is focused on “how kids use the outdoor environment and community as a classroom.”

The installation of the granite slabs, Hewitt said also ties into a unit she is working on with her students.

“We are studying Maine right now, so the granite is a pretty nice tie-in. We will be looking at this further and will be talking about how Maine uses granite,” said Hewitt, who is also one of the garden’s organizers.

Koziell, who served as the chairman of the Wentworth School Building Committee, said talk about a school garden was talked about when the committee’s work was finishing up.

“This is something I really believe in. I spearheaded the garden project at the Blue Point School when (my daughter) Sophia was there. My dad was a big gardener. It is important for the kids,” he said, adding that many lessons can be learned through the planning, construction, planting and farming stages of gardening.

He said his company was happy to do its part to help.

“Compaies like CPM should be doing things like this. We want to be good corporate citizens,” Koziell said. Aside from the granite donated this week, CPM has donated granite from a bridge construction project in Biddeford/Saco to the Scarborough Department of Public Works.

While the outdoor classroom is designed with Wentworth students in mind, it will also be made available to other schools and community groups to use.

“We really want this to become a community gathering space. We are already on our way,” Crosby said.

“We have picnic tables out there, but we hope this will be another place to meet or for people to go outside,” Hewitt said.

The outdoor classroom area is but one of Hewitt’s visions for the garden. She said she would like to see a fence along a raised bed constructed between the outdoor seating area and the informational kiosk by the garden gate. Students went out this week to plant hundreds of crocuses, alliums and daffodils along the raised bed.

The fence would be constructed to accommodate student artwork and would serve as a rotating gallery space for Wentworth artists. STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teachers will work with fifth-grade students to design the fence. Portland Arts and Technology High School welding students will help with installation. Hewitt said an artist in residence will collaborate with students and create kinesthetic sculptures that move via wind or solar power. A bee hive-shaped outdoor pizza oven is also planned. Hewitt said she applied for a grant from SeedMoney (formerly Kitchen Gardeners International) to fund the pizza oven. If she is awarded grant, the hope is to use the pizza oven for community dinners.

“There are a lot of ways this project can reach the greater Scarborough community. It’s already making an impact in the school community,” Crosby said.

Hewitt said the garden yielded a “really good harvest” this fall and produce was donated to Scarborough Food Pantry and the Community Thanksgiving Dinner that was held last Thursday in the Wentworth School cafeteria.

Koziell, who as building committee chairman led a series of subcommittees through months of planning and design work, is proud of how the school turned out.

“It’s remarkable. The school is wonderful. I sometimes get to walk around the school at (parent-teacher) conferences and the building is in well taken care of. It is everything we wanted it to be,” he said.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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