Students, staff and community members gathered at Thomaston Grammar School Sept. 27 to celebrate the school's Common Ground Garden & Outdoor Classroom's 10th birthday.

Four teachers — Lynn Snow, Colleen Kreps, Anne Pavalkis and the late Dan Allan — started the garden and outdoor classroom as an Expeditionary Learning School in 2009.

After a tour of the garden, a birthday party took place in the school's gymnasium, with Snow giving a slideshow presentation outlining the garden's development.

What began with two raised beds has now grown into more than 13 beds with varying crops. From tomatoes to herbs to flowers to composting, each year the fifth grade students are responsible for planting, weeding, watering and harvesting their crops.

The garden incorporates the fifth grade classroom studies of reading, math and social studies as the students read about plants, design the garden additions to scale, and act as landscapers.

As the plants mature, the students harvest their produce and use much of it in the home economics classroom kitchen, thanks to a Georges River Education Foundation grant.

In the spring, the students design, package and sell seed packets to raise money for their projects.

In 2013, the local Lowe's store donated the construction of a presentation stage, through its Lowe's Heroes volunteer program. Horch Roofing of Warren added the metal roof for rainwater collection, so the students do not have to lug water from the school.

Picnic tables, a tool shed and a stone path have also been added.

Snow said countless family members and community volunteers have been involved in the gardens. Additionally, local businesses have contributed in many ways to the success of the project.

In fact, in May of 2016 the shed was broken into and $300 worth of tools stolen. The American flag that had been hung just days before on the garden’s stage was also taken. Several businesses and individuals came to the rescue to replace the stolen items.

In 2018, a section of the new garden fence was dedicated as a “Learning Locks” area, a spinoff from love locks, which are placed on fences, bridges and gates at various places around the world as a symbol of a couple’s unbreakable love.

Snow had the idea to create a space on the fence for students, teachers, the community and anyone interested to commemorate their own life lessons, educational milestones, or pay tribute to their teachers by adding a lock to the fence.

Snow's involvement with the garden projects were honored when, in November 2018, she was named the 2019 Maine Agricultural Teacher of the Year. In conjunction with that honor, she will attend the Maine Agricultural trades show, the 2019 and 2020 National Agriculture in the Classroom conferences, and work to promote the teaching of food, fuel and fiber. Additionally, she will serve on the board of directors for the Maine School Garden Network.

During the birthday celebration, Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden, and Rep. Ann Matlack, D-St. George, presented Snow with a proclamation from the 129th Legislature to recognize her being named 2019 Maine Agricultural Teacher of the Year.

She was also recognized with a special letter read by Michelle Michaud on behalf of Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins' office.

"Celebrating the TGS 5th Grade Common Ground Garden & Outdoor Classroom's 10th birthday has been on my mind for nearly a year," Snow said Sept.30. "I am very proud of the students, staff, community, businesses, and volunteers that have come together to build such a spectacular space. I knew we needed to celebrate in a big way. The longevity of our garden is commendable."

A special commemorative sea lion mascot was carved in the garden by chainsaw sculptor Pasco Grove of Winterport. Most of the cost of the sculpture was covered by a crowd funding grant through SeedMoney that Snow had written last fall. The balance was paid with funds from the seed packet program. Pasco's aunt, Colleen Krep, was one of the founders of the garden. The sculpture was dedicated during the event.

To support the TGS Common Ground Garden and Outdoor Classroom, contact Snow at lsnow@rsu13.org.

Snow announced that the next project will be an orchard coming in May 2020, made possible by a grant from ReTreeUs and the Flannel Shirt Fund.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@courierpubilcationsllc.com.