by: Allie Shapiro, Dietetics Student at Madonna University

Back in April, I volunteered to coordinate the field trip activities for the 3rd grade LPS students that would be coming to the Growing Green garden in June.  I got the dates and information from Laura, and began planning.  I talked with Trish periodically, and bounced ideas off of her and other Nutrition Network members. 

    The initial challenge was to create a plan that allowed for all of the students to plant their seedlings in a given amount of time, however, only a handful of students could be planting at one time.  I ended up creating three stations that groups of students could cycle through while at the garden.  The first station had three activities going on simultaneously: a planting activity, a tour of the garden, and a mini-lecture on composting and recycling.  A small group of students would be in the planting area, while the remaining students were either touring the garden or learning about composting, and then the groups would rotate until everyone had planted their seedling.  The second station was food group bingo.  I constructed a life-size bingo board out of plywood squares painted in the colors of the food pyramid.  Students would draw a card that had a food item pictured on it, and then go and stand on the colored food group square that the food item was a part of.  The volunteers that worked the bingo station also had the students stand on the color of their favorite food, and other activities within the bingo station, to change things up and keep the students interested.  The third station was a food group relay.  The same concept as bingo applied, but instead of painted squares, I painted plastic bins the colors of the food groups.  Students were split into two teams and placed their food cards in the corresponding plastic buckets in a relay race format.  The kids loved this game, and the teachers liked that it got them moving around, and eventually tired out for the bus ride home!

    After planning and preparing materials for the activities, I developed a curriculum for the volunteers to follow, complete with instructions on each activity and tidbits of information to share with the students.  There were three days of field trips for the third grade classes, June 2nd, 3rd and 6th.  I was in attendance on the 2nd and 6th, and appointed another volunteer to lead the group on the 3rd.  We did have some issues with unreliable volunteers.  Luckily, the few that did show up each day were a great help and we managed to pull it off successfully, despite the complications.  Additionally, we held a field trip for Peaches ‘N Greens on June 15th with an altered lesson plan for the younger group. 

    The goals of the field trip days were to integrate what we had done in the classroom with the garden day.  It was clear that the students remembered our first nutrition lecture, as they were ready to play the games after a quick review of the food groups.  They were also very excited to plant their seedlings in the garden.  Many of the students talked about how proud they were of their seedling, and what it took for it to grow over the past couple of months.

    Additionally, the materials and activities I created for the third grade classes were used for other groups throughout the past few weeks. Fortunately, the activity materials and the field trip curriculum are both very flexible, and can be dumbed down or revved up to suit any age group or group size.  I believe the materials have been used for at least 6 different events by now!

     Now as the summer weeks seem to fly by, we are hoping that many of the third graders have visited the garden to check the progress of their seedlings, and that they will continue to visit throughout the growing season.  Happy summer 🙂

To see photos, visit our website at:


Madonna student Antigone Senn and her husband Robert generously donated a custom made bird house as decoration for the Growing Green garden.  Robert must’ve build a mighty-comfy abode, for within a matter of days a family of  tree swallows took up residence.  Though we’re happy to welcome our new neighbors, garden volunteers and visitors should refrain from getting too close to the birdhouse…seems as though Mr. Swallow is protecting his brood, which is staying dry and warm inside.

A short story by Madonna student Camelle Bell:

Today at the Growing Green Community Teaching Garden I had a surprise visit with a little blue bird!  It seems to have made its abode in the gardens’ wonderfully crafted birdhouse.  I was so excited to see him.  I rushed to get a snap shot, but of course the birdie quickly flew away.  So I continued with pulling weeds from the garden.   After a while I looked up and the little birdie was perched on the rooftop of the birdhouse and this time my cell was ready for picture-taking-action.

The Blue Jay came back to the birdhouse once more.  Again fumbling for my cell, I looked away, and the birdie was gone.  I thought to myself, “It could not have flown off that fast”.  Turns out the rascal was tucked away inside the birdhouse.  Its head peeped out of the birdhouse.  There he is!  I dashed for my cell again and managed to take a few more shots.

Just goes to show that the Growing Green Community Teaching Garden is a welcoming place for all of our neighbors great and small!

The scheduled field trip for the Plymouth Canton Autism Group to the garden was unfortunately cancelled due to inclement weather.  Instead, we had offered an alternative lesson in which the students planted various flower seeds in toilet paper rolls which they will care for at home until they are ready to be transplanted.  The students are invited to visit the garden plot at Greenmead throughout the growing season to check on the tomato plants that they previously cared for and to plant their new flowers.

The Stevenson students were able to visit the garden on Friday June 10th.  They transplanted the broccoli plants that they grew in their classroom under a grow light.  To show their appreciation, the students and their instructors brought some much appreciated gifts…organic plant food and bug spray.  The students’ full time instructor Barbara Bosley is a Master gardner who knew exactly what we’d need in the garden!  The weather was quite chilly, but everyone had a great time!  Barbara and her students have expressed interested in future nutrition lessons and gardening activities.  They are invited to visit the garden all summer long!

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photos and words by Antigone Senn

It’s called the Growing Green Community Teaching Garden, and even nature is playing teacher.  From the beginning, the planned curriculum included lessons in healthy eating, organic vs. conventional planting, sustainable agriculture, and the importance of community gardening.  Little did we know that starting on day one of the garden set up we’d be learning the harsh reality of the effect that unpredictable weather can have on a gardener’s garden, and on a larger scale, a farmer’s crop. 

Because of the heavy spring rain, the garden plots were not mechanically tilled prior to the grand opening as originally planned, and the garden set-up volunteers spent Monday morning tilling the land with shovels and rakes, while weeding the overgrown beds.  A lot of ground was covered in a few short hours; a good thing, as the dark cloud that appeared to the west of us around noon soon made its way overhead and opened up in a relentless downpour.  This was not just a passing shower.  Several heavy storms rolled through over the course of the next several hours and into the night. 

 We arrived the next morning to find our garden plots under water.  Hopeful that the warm and sunny conditions of the day would quickly dry out the puddles, we continued tilling and weeding the unfinished areas, and began designing the layout of the garden.   The conditions hadn’t improved after several hours, though we were ready to start planting our seedlings.  We knew we had to drain some of the water, and the trench digging began.  Soon the water flowed into the channels which encircled the garden, and the beds dried out enough for dozens of seedlings to be planted.   

The rest of the week brought a record amount of rainfall and lots of concern about the fate of our garden.  We were happy to see that our trenches survived and effectively kept our plants from drowning or floating away.  Without the heavy rainfall that first day, the idea of a drainage system may have never occurred to the novice volunteer gardeners.  Even as we cursed the weather, we knew it was a blessing in disguise!

 When the rain finally stopped, our relief was short-lived as rain clouds gave way to record temperatures and relentless sunshine.  We went from having flooded mud pits to chunky, dry and cracked clay.  Volunteers are watering the garden every day and taking special care to make sure our garden thrives.

 We have been witnessing the extreme influence weather conditions have on our little garden, and now recognize the challenges that our local farmers face every year as they plant their crop.  As we shop for our produce at grocery stores and farmer’s markets, we may now consider the work that was put into the planting and harvesting of that food.  Instead of complaining about the inflated prices that result from a suffering crop, we may appreciate the fact that a farmer’s livelihood may have also been threatened and be grateful that a variety of fruits and vegetables is still available to us.  

 To see photos and video of the garden set-up, visit

Our Mission

May 19, 2011

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Click here: Growing Green Slideshow to download the slideshow


Stephenson High School’s CI (cognitively impaired) adult students participated in the Livonia Public School presentations in early May. The two groups planted broccoli seeds with dietetic students  Antigone Senn, Lindsey Snyder and Rebecca Allen. They were provided a grow light in their class room and will transplant at the community garden at Greenmead in early June.

Plymouth-Canton adult autism group checking the progress of their tomato seedlings in the chemistry lab with Antigone Senn. After only one month, many of the plants required transplanting into larger pots. The group will transplant the tomato seeds into the community garden at Greenmead on May 27th. Antigone began working with this group in early February and will continue teaching cooking, gardening and nutrition lessons throughout the school year in partnership with the Nutrition Network.

Madonna University Dietetics students visited dozens of Livonia classrooms in March, April and May, volunteering their time to provide nutrition and planting lessons to almost 1,750 K-6 grade students!!  Kids and teachers alike gave rave reviews to the interactive activities involving a keepsake keychain representing the Food Guide Pyramid, as well as the planting lesson in which students planted a green bean seed to take home.

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Younger students enjoyed shouting out their favorite fruits and vegetables during the nutrition lesson, and proudly hung their finished key chains on their jacket zippers, sneakers and even used them as hair accessories.  Upper elementary students got creative by coming up with healthy meal ideals incorporating all of the food groups, enthusiastically shared their favorite exercise activities, and inevitably asked the question all budding scientists want to know…“is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?” (Answer:  It grows like a fruit, but we eat it like a vegetable.)  The planting activity was a hit across the board, as students loved getting their hands dirty and began to look forward to caring for their seedling at home.

Planting a successful garden is hard work, which is why the coordinators of Livonia’s Growing Green Community Teaching Garden enlisted the help of a couple hundred third graders.  Madonna University’s Dietetics students visited the classrooms of these eager gardeners, presenting the same nutrition and planting curriculum that their schoolmates learned, but with a twist.  With the help of a donated grow light, the classrooms would serve as temporary greenhouses for several dozen pea plants.  Beginning in June, these lucky third graders will take a field trip to Greenmead where they will transplant the plants they so lovingly cared for in their classrooms!

The Growing Green garden is getting its start in the science building at Madonna University!  Each week a new flat of seeds are being planted and nurtured with tender loving care from our volunteers.  Hot peppers, eggplant, parsley, oregano, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and tomatoes are just a few of the vegetables gearing up to be transplanted into the garden at Greenmead in a matter of weeks!

Sowing the Seeds

April 5, 2011

March is National Nutrition Month, and the Dietetics students at Madonna University are using the opportunity to visit K-6 classrooms in various Livonia Public Schools to present a Nutrition lesson and to introduce Livonia’s Growing Green Community Teaching Garden.  Students string corresponding colored beads onto a keychain while getting an overview of the Food Guide Pyramid, creating a souvenir which reminds them to “Eat with Color.”  Fun meal planning and exercise activities get the kids up out of their seats and moving. 




As an introduction to the garden, and to tailor the theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month to “Eating with Color from Your Garden,” the kids participate in a planting activity.  A green bean is planted into a biodegradable planter (a fancy name for the tube from a spent toilet paper roll) and sent home with care instructions, and a delicious recipe for the family to try when the veggies are ready to harvest! 


Just over a week after the visit from Madonna students, the father of a fourth grader from Ms. Cooke’s class at Coolidge Elementary sent us this picture!


Beginning in April, third grade classes in various Livonia Public Schools will also be getting visits from Madonna students and will learn the same nutrition curriculum focusing on eating fruits and vegetables every day.  These students will be growing their seedlings in their classrooms, and in May and June will have a field trip to the garden where they will plant their own vegetables with the help of college students.  The 3rd grade students will be given information to take home to their parents to encourage visits to the garden over the summer months.  A math handout will also be distributed as a summer activity.