Signature Programs

Learning Garden

The CDS Learning Garden is more than a manifestation of cooperative instruction, a dynamic curriculum, and opportunities for authentic, experiential learning, it stands as a vibrant symbol of what makes Chatham Day School more than just a school. It is a garden that affirms life, family, friendship and community.
The inspiration for creating our garden stems from a parent who suffered an immeasurable loss.  She nurtured herself back from the depths of sorrow by working a plot of earth in her own yard, transforming it into a bountiful garden of flowers and vegetables. Her project not only had a profound impact on her family and friends, she discovered both a passion and a mission: to joyfully share the beauty of nature’s life cycle with children.
Just as our school began in 1998 with an idea and a dream about the unlimited potential of children, so began the CDS Learning Garden project in 2013.  It was then that, as part of the Parents' Association, a committee began the plans for designing, funding, and building a garden ready to grow in the spring of 2014.  Our first “Garden Party” held in June of that year, brought volunteers, families and students to bask together on a warm sunny day celebrating the remarkable progress of our young garden.
Last winter, responsibilities for germinating, planting, weeding and watering were assigned across grade levels from preschool through grade eight.  Since the garden is strategically placed in the middle of the campus, excitement grew with daily inspections by eager students tracking the first growth spurts -- all the way through to harvest.  Volunteer families took turns over the summer tending the garden, and many families dropped by in July and August just to enjoy the beautiful display, monitor the growth and pick the flowers and vegetables.   
In September, we held our first school-wide taste-testing events during lunch periods using our own tomatoes and zucchini.  Volunteer chefs supplemented our garden’s harvest with additional store-bought organic tomatoes and zucchini, cooking and preparing them in a variety of ways to serve.  Students were encouraged to sample anything that looked appealing and, to many a parent’s surprise, it was all deemed appealing! The lines for “seconds” outgrew the samples!
Nutrition education is now seamlessly woven into the earth science components of the curriculum and, based on this early and resounding success, the program is expanding.  This year, we planted crops that will produce an early yield – garlic, potatoes and herbs, and we can’t wait for the next taste-testing events.
As John Denver sang, “Inch by inch, row by row, gonna’ make this garden grow…”.  It amazes us all how much was accomplished in a single growing season.  Students, faculty and parents share ownership and responsibility for the further growth of a beautiful idea and a beautiful garden.