Cape Cod students learn to grow using Native American farming techniques

Cape Cod students learn to grow using Native American farming techniques

FALMOUTH, Mass. — Growing food and cultural awareness are the goals of a project at the North Falmouth Elementary School where students are digging in the dirt and learning how to farm the land just like Native Americans did hundreds of years ago.

"We grew vegetables like corn, tomatoes, and carrots," explained fourth grader Fia Inman.
Students use fish as fertilizer just like the Wampanoag Tribe taught the Pilgrims to do when they arrived in 1620.

“First of all, it was very slimy, so it was hard to hold, but once you got the hang of it, you just put it in the hole and you bury it," said fourth grader Caden Bailey.

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Mike Irving, a teacher at the school, says the idea to create a garden like this came after a field trip to Plimoth Plantation. The school felt it would not only get kids outside and off their electronic devices, but it would also help them better understand the contributions of Native Americans.

"Reading it out of a book or hearing about it, even if you’re hearing it first hand at Plimoth Plantation, it’s still not the same if you don’t have your hands in the dirt," Irving said.

The school garden, which is called “The Three Sisters," is a mix of plants that complement each other and provide a balanced diet.  “You have corn in the middle, and then the beans crawl up the corn, and the squash keeps the weeds down," explained Irving.

Students learned the particulars of this kind of farming from Kitty Hendricks Miller, the educational coordinator for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. She demonstrated all kinds of farming techniques used by Native Americans. “It all just ties back to what native people have done for thousands and thousands of years." It's also a cultural lesson, providing an opportunity to show how Native Americans lived in Massachusetts.

Last year’s garden flourished and although the crops lasted just a season, their lessons will last a lifetime.

"It was actually really interesting to me because I’ve never heard of planting fish in the ground and growing stuff from that," said Fia Inman.

Teachers say this garden allows them to teach science, social studies, and math all at the same time.