Garden Outdoor Learning Center PTA Seth Boyden News

Garden Update: Vote to Help Us Win a $10K Grant!

April 2 Update

We have applied for a $10,000 grant from Seeds of Change for Seth Boyden. We want to extend our farm-to-table experience by having several farmers markets in the fall and spring, which will allow students to bring fresh produce home. We will also offer programming to our students on healthy food choices and mindful eating and hold a vegetable gardening/cooking class over the summer for parents while their children attend the summer school program.

We need your help to get this grant! We will only get to the judging stage if we have enough votes, and you can vote every day until April 19th. The 25 schools with the most votes will go on to the final stage of judging, so we need you to vote early and often!

Please vote and share this link on social media!

March 26 Update

Some garden updates from Matthias Ebinger:

– A group of boy scouts, led by Maggie Tuohy, recently installed the first batch of our Nature Story Trail Markers, as well as a rain barrel.

– On Saturday, April 1, a landscaping contractor will come to install stone dust pathways in our habitat garden. If you want to pitch in, come by to help from 9am to 3pm. Bring work gloves and a hammer if you have them!

– We have received a $2,000 grant from Whole Foods for the garden renovation. After discussions with our landscape architect, Bill Scerbo, and our very own vinter, Rick Perez, we are ready to take down the old garden fence and prepare the installation of the new fence, which will serve as a trellis for an assortment of different grapes (and possibly also for a few trained apple trees). It will be placed a bit closer to the current pathway, in a curved shape (see rendering below).

– We will schedule an OLC meeting in the next few weeks to discuss the status of our Story Trail, SOMA Children’s Arboretum, and permanent sun shading.

A rendering of the new garden fence.
Garden Seth Boyden News

Join Us for Garden Recess

strawberry-fields-radishes190Every Friday, different parents have been volunteering to staff the school’s Strawberry Fields garden so that our children can explore it during recess.

As the season winds down, there is still fun to be had. For more information and to be added to the Garden Recess email loop, fill out this form.

Events Garden Harvest Festival Outdoor Learning Center Seth Boyden News

Harvest Festival Help


Don’t forget to sign up — right now — for a shift (or two) at the Harvest Festival. We needs lots of people to work booths, making sure that we can offer cool games, crafts, and learning experiences. We can only have as many activities as we have helpers, so this can’t happen without you! We also need bakers and cooks.

We’ll have pumpkins, crafts, fairy houses, ponies, a bouncy house, popcorn, cupcakes and, well, lots and lots of fun for the whole family. Some people, in fact, say it’s their very favorite day of the year!

Don’t miss it on Saturday, Oct. 15, from noon to 4.

Sign up to help here:

Garden Outdoor Learning Center Seth Boyden News

Help Our Trees Survive the Winter

trees-in-the-olcThe new trees in the backyard need a last bit of watering to ensure that they make it through the winter.

The job is simple. Just turn on the hose and fill the water bags and you’re done. It should only take an hour!

Get all the details and sign up here:

Community Building Garden Outdoor Learning Center Seth Boyden News

Seeking Garden Volunteers

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-10-44-00-amThe Strawberry Fields produce garden, Habitat Garden and Outdoor Classroom are all gardens within Seth Boyden’s Outdoor Learning Center maintained by parent volunteers for your children to use during the school day. We are looking for volunteers. No garden experience or green thumbs required!

Garden Recess: When Strawberry Fields is open during recess, we need volunteers to set up pre-arranged activity stations, including art, harvesting, planting, weeding, eating, observing, and cooking. The children are also always welcome to experience the garden in an unstructured way. Garden Recess will take place on Fridays unless there are enough parents willing to staff another day.

Garden Maintenance Days: These occur on the weekends, but some tasks can also be done in the evenings. We gather as a community to tackle the larger projects that need to be done every spring and fall such as weeding, mulching, pruning and repairs. It is always a fun family event where children help and have fun playing with their friends while adults focus on the maintenance.

If you are interested, please sign up here: For questions about how to help, contact Elizabeth Ebinger [email protected]

Events Garden Outdoor Learning Center PTA School School District Seth Boyden News

Ceremony Marks OLC Grand Opening

We celebrated years of visionary thinking, fundraising and plain old hard work with the grand opening of our Outdoor Learning Center on Sept. 16.

The ceremony included school leaders past and present as well as community leaders from Maplewood and South Orange. It was a time to look to the future of the OLC, and also to honor the contributions of those who played a part in its creation. (You can see many of the names in the official program.)

Principal Damion Frye led off the event and talked about what an asset the Outdoor Learning Center will be for our school.

“Learning is messy, teaching is messy, especially with elementary age students,” he said. “This gives our kids an opportunity to learn in a space not confined by four walls and a ceiling.”

After our fifth graders sang the school song, Tia Swanson took the microphone to talk about the history of the OLC and to thank all those who had worked on the project over the years, many of whom returned to Seth Boyden for the grand opening.

“In our daily lives, we don’t often have a chance to change the world and make it a better place,” Swanson said. “But we’ve done that here. We’ve changed the world for every Seth Boyden student.”

The other speakers were Bill Scerbo, the landscape architect who worked on the last phase of the design; John Ramos, our district superintendent; Vic DeLuca, the mayor of Maplewood; and Sheena Collum, the South Orange Village president. The morning concluded with a ribbon cutting.

“What a great example of the power of community,” Ramos said. “What a great example of intergenerational cooperation. And what better place to do it than in this amazing Seth Boyden community?”

Special thanks to photographers Marvi Lacar and Ben Lowy, Anna Herbst of Orange Studios Photography and Jessica Auth for the images below.



Our fifth graders sang the school song.
Tia Swanson and Matthias Ebinger, co-chairs of the OLC Committee.
From left: Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca, Tia Swanson, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, and South Orange Village President Sheena Collum.
Principal Damion Frye.






SOMSD Superintendent John Ramos.



Mark Quiles, who retired in June after 10 years as Seth Boyden principal, led the ribbon cutting with Ramos, Collum, Frye and DeLuca.





Garden Seth Boyden News

Get Ready for Spring With Beautiful Garden Photos

Maggie Tuohy spends a lot of time in Strawberry Fields, and she has the great photos to prove it. Here are some shots of our wonderful garden to get you in the mood for the fast-approaching warmer weather. Click on the images to enlarge.

Fundraising Garden Outdoor Learning Center Seth Boyden News

Seth Boyden Wins $10,000 Grant to Develop Garden

Seth Boyden has become one of 11 schools and/or districts in the state to be awarded a $10,000 grant through Sustainable Jersey’s first round of school grants for the year. The grants were funded by the New Jersey Education Association and checks were presented at a brunch and ceremony on Thursday in Trenton.

The money will fund Story Trails and new planting in the school’s Habitat Garden, a mostly wild area in the school’s back yard devoted to plants and trees native to New Jersey. The story trails will be designed to lead students on walks of discovery through the garden, helping them learn to identify species in the garden, as well as to discover the animals and insects that call the patch home. Planners hope members of the community will use the garden as well.

Garden Harvest Festival Seth Boyden News

Harvest Festival 2015

See all the great photos from Seth Boyden’s annual Harvest Festival, which was held on October 17. A huge crowd enjoyed great food, an obstacle course, a bouncy house, the Montclair Art Museum’s Art Truck, pony rides and more.

Garden Press School Seth Boyden News

Strawberry Fields Adds an Outdoor Kitchen

It is harvest cooking time at Seth Boyden, thanks to the efforts of a soon-to-be Eagle Scout and the school’s garden teacher.

On Oct. 18, Columbia junior Jack Kelly cut the ribbon on Seth Boyden’s new outdoor kitchen, which he built as his Eagle Scout project. The kitchen, which includes a long stainless steel prep counter with a sink, and a small gathering space complete with white board, was built mostly in Jack’s parents’ garage. (Jack’s mom, Lynn Kelly, is a teacher at Seth Boyden and his Boy Scout Troop, Troop 5, calls Seth Boyden home.) Jack raised all the money for its construction and then, with the help of fellow Troop 5 Scouts and some dedicated dads and friends, lugged it to the garden and installed it. 

Events Garden

Fall Seth Boyden Garden Clean-up – Saturday 9/26 9a-1p

Fall Seth Boyden Clean-up is September 26th , 9 am-1pm.   This is an annual event to beautify the outdoor space.  Please come, we have lots of fun work to do.  Bring your children, your garden tools and a snack to share.

Questions?  Contact Maggie Tuohy [email protected] or Elizabeth Ebinger [email protected]

Garden School

Garden Recess – School Farm to Table Feast!

Garden Recess was kicked off on Thursday with a wonderful school farm to table feast!  Students picked and washed apples from our many apple trees, pulled carrots from the ground, snipped collard greens and kale from the garden beds and took part in washing, chopping and cooking these fresh, delicious ingredients.  With the student’s help and several enthusiastic parent volunteers, we made applesauce, and sautéed collard, kale  garlic, yum!  Children tasted the carrots and apples right from washing and then after they were  cooked or placed in a blender and turned into applesauce.  It was all a success…..there was no food left at the end of the day!

A team of kids and adults picked up the apples that have fallen to the ground.  They will soon be apple rings,  strung and hung to feed our bird population.

We had a Garden Volunteer and Organization Meeting on Thursday, September 17th.  If you would like to hear more about that meeting and be a part of our Garden Team this year,  click .   We would love to have you participate.

Fall Seth Boyden Clean-up is September 26th , 9 am-1pm.   This is an annual event to beautify the outdoor space.  Please come, we have lots of fun work to do.  Bring your children, your garden tools and a snack to share.

Questions?  Contact Maggie Tuohy [email protected] or Elizabeth Ebinger [email protected]

Garden Outdoor Learning Center PTA School

Learn more about the Outdoor Learning Center Committee!

The Outdoor Learning Center Committee is a group of parents who are committed to enhancing Seth Boyden’s outdoor learning space, gardens and play areas. This group meets bi-monthly and is part of the PTA. The mission of this group is rooted in the groundbreaking work done by parents, staff and volunteers who built the Strawberry Fields gardens and made other major enhancements to the school’s backyard in 1999 when the school became a demonstration school for the multiple intelligences.

Funds raised by the OLC committee purchased the latest piece of playground equipment at the school. Over the past year and a half, the committee has been busy raising funds for our next project – an Outdoor Learning Pavilion. Designed by parent architect Huzefa Irfani, the space will allow our teachers to bring the teaching of all subjects outdoors – and provide a workspace for garden studies.

We will be working with the school district to take this project out to bid this fall and begin construction as soon as is feasibly possible. We have about $15,000 left to raise to cover construction costs.

Please contact Heather Puglisi, Chair of the Committee at [email protected] if you would like to join the committee or can connect us with a business that might provide us with masonry, concrete or brick pavers to help offset the cost of materials. Brick pavers inscribed with your child’s or teacher’s name maybe be purchased for $100.

Sincerely – The OLC Committee

Susie Adamson, Caryn Emmons, Anna Herbst, Huzefa Irfani, Lizete Monteiro, Amelia Nickels, Heather Puglisi, Kathryn Reilly, Tia Swanson


Check out this beautiful video created last spring by parents Andrew Riss and Sandy Goijberg.


To donate using Paypal click here:

Garden Outdoor Learning Center PTA School

Help us close the gap!!

Every bit counts! $10 or $1,000 (or more!) … we are determined to make this dream a reality before next Spring!! Please help us make this happen for our amazing community of students and staff!


SETH BOYDEN OLC from Andrew Riss on Vimeo.

  Give today!

Events Garden Outdoor Learning Center Press PTA School

Strawberry Fields Celebrates ‘Farm to School’ Week

Seth Boyden students enjoyed demonstrations of locally grown foods as well as a lesson in civics on Sept. 25 when Assemblyman John F. McKeon and Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey came to Strawberry Fields to celebrate “Farm to School Week.”

McKeon is the sponsor of a measure that designated the last week of September as “Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week.” He and Jasey picked Seth Boyden to celebrate the designation because Strawberry Fields, Seth Boyden’s working garden, is among the top 20 finalists of the inaugural ‘School Garden of the Year’ award from the New Jersey Farm to School Network and Edible New Jersey.

McKeon and Jasey were joined at the event by Beth Feehan, director of the New Jersey Farm to School Network; Lorraine Gibbons, one of the founders of Strawberry Fields; and Seth Boyden Principal Mark Quiles.

Before the speech making began, students visited tables staffed by PTA members where they sampled foods which were either donated by “Jersey Fresh” local farmers markets or grown in Strawberry Fields by the students.

Students tasted yellow squash, green cauliflower, yellow and red bell peppers, broccoli, cucumbers and more. (Said one 5th grader, “I didn’t know broccoli could taste this good!”) They sniffed and identified herbs. They made rubbings of leaves. Notably, they lined up in droves to taste some swiss chard sauted in a pan with garlic by Virginia Lamb Falconer.

“They were chowing down on it!” said Falconer. “They like food that they grow.”

Moments later, McKeon had a group of 5th grade students cheering for New Jersey as he named the fruits and vegetables for which the Garden State is one of the top producers (agriculture, noted McKeon, is New Jersey’s third largest economic sector after pharma and tourism). After McKeon asked questions such as “Who’s third in blueberry production?,” students shouted, “New Jersey!”

Jasey called it the “best speech” ever given by McKeon.

Afterward, Jasey presented a proclamation from the State Assembly. Jasey wisely chose not to read the proclamation to the well-behaved but fidgety fifth graders. The proclamation read in part that Seth Boyden “stands as a beacon to the heights to which education can aspire” — particularly in reference to the multiple uses of the Strawberry Fields garden in educating students about biology, agriculture, nutrition and other sciences.

McKeon also received a special recognition from the New Jersey Farm to School Network’s Feehan for sponsoring the legislation.

McKeon also invoked the name of Seth Boyden during his comments, noting that the inventor owned the original property on which the school is built and cultivated the modern strawberry. After retirement, Boyden spent his time hybridizing strawberries and, in fact, many strawberries today originate from the seeds of his garden.

Quiles thanked Gibbons and other PTA members for transforming the former “dust bowl” that was the garden area into a rich and vital part of the Seth Boyden educational experience today.

Click here for Patch coverage.

Click here to see photos of the day’s action.

Garden PTA School

Plants are growing in Seth Boyden

Plants are growing in Seth Boyden’s Strawberry Fields garden, of course, but children’s imaginations and understanding of the natural world are growing, too. The garden has never been empty this year, with the Garden Committee heading up a cadre of volunteers to make the garden a
beehive of activity.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, children visit the garden at recess. They are building a fairy village ringed by tree stumps and tasting local herbs and honey. The younger children explore the garden as “garden detectives,” discovering worms and root vegetables under the soil.

The herb garden outside the kindergarten portables is now home to a colony of monarch caterpillars, who are neighbors to a new sundial. Students visit the caterpillars when they study the shadows cast by the sundial with their classes. Nearby, the community garden is being transformed into a covered winter garden, where spinach, carrots and swiss chard can grow, protected from the elements.

Both lunch aides and parents are being trained so that they can guide children in experiencing the garden. Maggie Tuohy is developing a written guide so parents at each grade level can work on age-appropriate activities with children in the garden. Home Depot generously provided a discount on a garden shed that will house books, paints, seeds and other learning tools. Classes are busy planting, experimenting with soil types and building greenhouses. Every part of the Seth Boyden community is enjoying the garden and learning from it.