September 30, 2014

From Seed to Harvest to Seed: Growing Rice in our Schools

If I told you that there is rice growing here on Martha’s Vineyard, would you believe me? Well it’s true! Students at every school on the island are cultivating rice in their school gardens. Last spring, Christian Elwell of South River Miso generously donated rice seeds to grow in our school gardens. This rice is not just any rice. It is a special strain grown only by Christian himself and developed from an heirloom variety called Duborskian. Duborskian rice is a dry, or upland variety that does not require flooding and is quite hearty, perfect for our school gardens! IMG_1312 Our students were entrusted with just 100 seeds to divide amongst the island schools. We planted our seeds in the spring. Over the spring and into summer, our rice flourished, as the plants began to grow tall and form seed heads. As students returned to school, we noticed the rice seeds were growing harder and turning yellow, signs that they were ready for harvest. Scudder_GARD_WTS_riceharvest_3 In an effort to preserve this ancient variety of rice on the island, we plan to use this year's harvest for seed saving, so that next year we can plant even more rice in our schools. We thought back to the seeds we were given in the spring. There were just 100 of them! How many would we have now? Scudder_GARD_WTS_riceharvest At the West Tisbury School, students tackled this question. At harvest time, second grade students gathered in the gardens and each cut one stalk. How many seeds did they count on their stalk? On average, we found there were about 40 per stalk. Scudder_CLASS_WTS_riceharvest Back in the classroom, students used blocks to count how many seeds we had all together. We found out that at the West Tisbury School alone, we would save about 900 seeds! We gathered our stalks and hung them in the classroom to dry. As Christian told us, hanging out harvest in the classroom will provide a “very beautiful presence” throughout the year. Better yet, next year, thanks to the hard work of our students and teachers, this beautiful harvest will be multiplied!