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School, community celebrate outdoor garden's 10th birthday

By Beth A. Birmingham | Oct 01, 2019
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Staff, students and supporters celebrate the 10th anniversary of the school garden at Thomaston Grammar School.

Thomaston — 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

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

Visitors admire the TGS 5th Grade Common Ground Garden & Outdoor Classroom Sept. 27 in Thomaston. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Family members of one of the founders of the Common Ground Garden & Outdoor Classroom -- the late Dan Allan -- pose for a photograph Sept. 27. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
From left, Sen. David Miramant of Camden and Rep. Ann Matlack of St. George present teacher Lynn Snow with a proclamation from the 129th Legislature to recognize her being named 2019 Maine Agricultural Teacher of the Year. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
(Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
From left, Anne Pavalkis, Colleen Kreps, Lynn Snow, and Kay Allan, wife of the late Dan Allan, pose before blowing out the candles to celebrate the 10th birthday of the Thomaston Grammar School's 5th Grade Common Ground Garden & Outdoor Classroom Sept. 27. The cake is chocolate zucchini and carrot cake -- made with produce from the garden. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
At center, chainsaw sculptor Pasco Grove explains to Rep. Ann Matlack, second from right, how he carved the wooden sea lion mascot. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Fifth grade teacher Lynn Snow, right, gives a slideshow presentation showing the development of the TGS 5th Grade Common Ground Garden & Outdoor Classroom during a 10th birthday celebration Sept. 27. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Teacher Lynn Snow, left, listens as her father, Ronald Anderson, leads the audience in singing "Happy Birthday" Sept. 27. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
The Learning Locks area on the fence that surrounds the Common Ground Garden & Outdoor Classroom at Thomaston Grammar School. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Using a grant from ReTreeUs and the Flannel Shirt Fund, TGS will be adding an orchard in May 2020. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Thomaston Grammar School students and staff gather for a group photo to celebrate the Common Ground Garden & Outdoor Classroom's 10th birthday Sept. 27. (Courtesy of: Ainslee Riley)
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Comments (3)
Posted by: Doug Curtis Jr. | Oct 03, 2019 14:01

Simply marvelous!  Thank you Lynn and everyone who pitched in throughout the years.

Posted by: Margaret McCrea | Oct 02, 2019 09:30

RSU 13 and Thomaston, in particular, are extremely fortunate to have the creativity, drive and ambition of teacher Lynn Snow.  All of her students are being given an incredible education in not only school curriculum requirements but more importantly, lessons and examples of common sense and everyday-living life skills......above and beyond.  The entire community, especially those with fifth graders, owe her a debt of gratitude.  Thank you, Lynn, for such a positive contribution you are making to our future citizens.


Posted by: gilbert harper | Oct 01, 2019 12:13

On behalf of the George’s River Education Foundation Board “Happy 10th!” to Lynn Snow and her great 5th graders.

This is one of 120 grants that GREF has been able to provide, supporting our great educators and children.

Gil Harper, President

Georges River Education Foundation

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