St. Jerome School cultivates learning with nature in new gardens

September 6, 2023 at 11:21 a.m.
Students of St. Jerome School harvest cucumbers in the school’s vegetable garden. Courtesy photo
Students of St. Jerome School harvest cucumbers in the school’s vegetable garden. Courtesy photo


Taking education beyond the classroom this past year, St. Jerome School created a beautiful butterfly garden and a lush and productive vegetable garden.

“Each of these gardens was created and tended by a small group of students, led by school parent volunteers,” said Filippini Sister Elizabeth Seton Dalessio, principal. “These projects aimed to teach students about the wonders of nature, the importance of sustainable practices and the joy of growing their own food.”

The Butterfly Garden was designed by Janna Montague, parent of a St. Jerome third grade student. Students in grades two through eight worked together to build the garden carefully designed to attract and support local butterfly species, providing a haven for their growth and development. The transformation from caterpillar to butterfly was witnessed by students in Pre-K and Kindergarten in their classrooms, followed by release of their butterflies directly into the butterfly garden.

A St. Jerome School student waters the vegetable garden. Courtesy photo

 Sister Elizabeth noted that the benefits of the garden extend beyond the academic realm.

“It serves as a peaceful retreat for students, offering a tranquil environment where they can connect with nature and take a break from their daily routines,” she pointed out. “The garden will serve as a gathering space for outdoor lessons this coming school year, and for potential community events and parent workshops.”

The Vegetable Garden Club, a project developed by Suzanne Marcantonio, St. Jerome school nurse, consisted of 16 students from fifth through seventh grades.

“The goal of this club was multi-fold,” Sister Elizabeth explained, “to provide an opportunity to learn about the lifecycle of plants firsthand, to learn the steps in planning out a new garden from ground up, to learn how to maintain a vegetable garden throughout the season, to encourage healthy eating and to harvest delicious, nutritious vegetables.”

Garden preparation began March 30 when the middle school boys filled the five raised garden beds with a rich soil-compost mixture from Molzon Landscape Nursery in Lincroft. Planting for the vegetable garden began inside in early spring, with the students sowing tomato, cucumber, eggplant, pepper, parsley, basil and rosemary seeds in small greenhouses that were then maintained in the science lab over the following eight weeks. This was followed by the direct sow of lettuce, pea, radish, and carrot seeds into the garden beds in early April.

Students plant flowers in the St. Jerome School butterfly garden. Courtesy photo

 “While all the seedlings were happily growing, the students used this waiting time to build several bamboo structures that would eventually be used to support the cucumbers and beans,” said Sister Elizabeth. “Students were able to enjoy the fruits of their labor prior to summer recess with the first harvest of radishes and lettuce in mid-May. Indoor seedlings were successfully transplanted into the garden beds soon after, in early June, and were maintained throughout the summer by garden club members.”

As goals were met, the students “beamed with pride,” she said, with vegetables harvested by club members, and distributed to family, friends, and school faculty and staff.

“The club looks forward to expanding next year and creating some new goals,” Sister Elizabeth continued. “Our vegetable and butterfly gardens have become an invaluable resource for our students. They not only enhance academic learning, but also instill a sense of responsibility and appreciation for nature. We are proud to offer such a unique and enriching experience to our students.”

The gardens are “empowering their students to become environmentally conscious citizens and fostering a lifelong connection to the natural world,” she said.


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Taking education beyond the classroom this past year, St. Jerome School created a beautiful butterfly garden and a lush and productive vegetable garden.

“Each of these gardens was created and tended by a small group of students, led by school parent volunteers,” said Filippini Sister Elizabeth Seton Dalessio, principal. “These projects aimed to teach students about the wonders of nature, the importance of sustainable practices and the joy of growing their own food.”

The Butterfly Garden was designed by Janna Montague, parent of a St. Jerome third grade student. Students in grades two through eight worked together to build the garden carefully designed to attract and support local butterfly species, providing a haven for their growth and development. The transformation from caterpillar to butterfly was witnessed by students in Pre-K and Kindergarten in their classrooms, followed by release of their butterflies directly into the butterfly garden.

A St. Jerome School student waters the vegetable garden. Courtesy photo

 Sister Elizabeth noted that the benefits of the garden extend beyond the academic realm.

“It serves as a peaceful retreat for students, offering a tranquil environment where they can connect with nature and take a break from their daily routines,” she pointed out. “The garden will serve as a gathering space for outdoor lessons this coming school year, and for potential community events and parent workshops.”

The Vegetable Garden Club, a project developed by Suzanne Marcantonio, St. Jerome school nurse, consisted of 16 students from fifth through seventh grades.

“The goal of this club was multi-fold,” Sister Elizabeth explained, “to provide an opportunity to learn about the lifecycle of plants firsthand, to learn the steps in planning out a new garden from ground up, to learn how to maintain a vegetable garden throughout the season, to encourage healthy eating and to harvest delicious, nutritious vegetables.”

Garden preparation began March 30 when the middle school boys filled the five raised garden beds with a rich soil-compost mixture from Molzon Landscape Nursery in Lincroft. Planting for the vegetable garden began inside in early spring, with the students sowing tomato, cucumber, eggplant, pepper, parsley, basil and rosemary seeds in small greenhouses that were then maintained in the science lab over the following eight weeks. This was followed by the direct sow of lettuce, pea, radish, and carrot seeds into the garden beds in early April.

Students plant flowers in the St. Jerome School butterfly garden. Courtesy photo

 “While all the seedlings were happily growing, the students used this waiting time to build several bamboo structures that would eventually be used to support the cucumbers and beans,” said Sister Elizabeth. “Students were able to enjoy the fruits of their labor prior to summer recess with the first harvest of radishes and lettuce in mid-May. Indoor seedlings were successfully transplanted into the garden beds soon after, in early June, and were maintained throughout the summer by garden club members.”

As goals were met, the students “beamed with pride,” she said, with vegetables harvested by club members, and distributed to family, friends, and school faculty and staff.

“The club looks forward to expanding next year and creating some new goals,” Sister Elizabeth continued. “Our vegetable and butterfly gardens have become an invaluable resource for our students. They not only enhance academic learning, but also instill a sense of responsibility and appreciation for nature. We are proud to offer such a unique and enriching experience to our students.”

The gardens are “empowering their students to become environmentally conscious citizens and fostering a lifelong connection to the natural world,” she said.

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