On June 12, Thomaston Grammar School held its annual Celebration of Learning. The evening event is an opportunity for each grade level to showcase an integrated unit completed during the school year.

A popular activity each year at the celebration is the Common Ground Garden & Outdoor Classroom student led tours. Fifth-grade tour guides formally lead small groups through the garden. They discuss the history of the garden, the many features, the work involved, and their learning. This year’s tour guides included Colton Robinson, Emma Gerrish, Hannah Robinson, and Owen Miller. Guides donned Lowe’s carpenter aprons to recognize the Lowe’s Heroes project that was completed last fall. Additionally, the tours were enhanced with live music as teacher Angela Johnson played guitar while students sang on the garden stage.

The Common Ground Garden & Outdoor Classroom was established in the fall of 2009. Thomaston Grammar School teachers Colleen Kreps, Anne Pavalkis, Dan Allan, and Lynn Snow worked together with students to reclaim the then overgrown and abandoned Georges Valley High School ropes course and turn it into a teaching and learning space.

Over the years, the garden as grown and now boasts 13 raised beds, four perennial rock gardens, a hoop house, a vertical succulent tower, tool shed, picnic tables, composting, and the stage/rain water collection system that was the Lowe’s Heroes project. Horch Roofing of Warren installed a metal roof and gutter system early this spring. Volunteer, Bob Snow, positioned rain barrels, tied in downspouts, and made the system operational. In the past, students had to carry endless water from the school. Now, with the rainwater collection system installed, the precious resource is easily accessed.

The TGS Common Ground Garden & Outdoor Classroom is successful due to the dedication of the staff, enthusiasm of the students, and support of the community. The generosity and assistance of many businesses and individuals have contributed greatly to the garden. The RSU 13 budget does not finance the project. All the raised beds, picnic tables, shed, stage, tools, plants, and other materials or supplies have been either purchased through student fundraising or donated. To keep informed of garden activities, see the TGS 5th Grade Common Ground Garden & Outdoor Classroom Facebook page.