Volunteer Spotlight: Chuck Dobbs

Long past due, HFHK would like to recognize the many contributions of Chuck Dobbs. Chuck is Senior Project Architect for Tetra Tech in the Newark, Delaware office. Tetra Tech, a prominent Architectural and Engineering Design service firm in Delaware for over seventy years, has worked on and designed many of Delaware’s public schools. During Chuck’s twenty plus years at Tetra Tech, he has worked on a number of these public school projects.  Chuck’s involvement with HFHK was certainly a natural complement to his school work experience. It was actually Chuck’s wife Madeline’s involvement on the HFHK Board, which drew him into service for HFHK.   His love for designing and physically building things, coupled with his belief in the critical role that public schools play in society, merges in the joy he gets from building gardens, and other volunteer activities for HFHK. His first garden build at Mt Pleasant Elementary School was a thrill for him, not only because of the great fun he had with the building process with all the teachers, parents and students, but also because it was where his daughter Vivienne attended elementary school twenty three years prior to that garden build day.   He was an invaluable advisor when we switched to lumber construction for the Marbrook ES (see the video here) and HB DuPont Middle School gardens. More recently, he served as a judge for a planter building competition by the Springer Middle School STEM students, which helped support an HFHK fundraising event. We appreciate Chuck sharing his skills and time with us, and his enthusiasm for our cause!

Sprouts to Fund New HFHK Garden!

As schools and students across the country adapt to new ways of learning, community efforts to create a more equitable food system are gaining momentum. The Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation, which focuses on nutrition education and fresh food access, announced $1.6 million in donations to nonprofit partners addressing local issues amplified by the pandemic. HFHK is excited to be a recipient of one of the 113 Neighborhood grants and receive our check at Sprouts new Wilmington store location. The grant funds will be used to start a new vegetable garden at Hanby Elementary School in North Wilmington. We can’t wait to construct the garden this spring!

Fall Feats that Can’t Be Beat

Did you know gardening is a great way to support outdoor learning? While taking appropriate safety precautions, we continue to partner with schools to fill an important community need that has been heightened by the pandemic.

COVID-19 didn’t stop these Springer Middle School Environmental Science students from accomplishing an amazing fall feat while social distancing. From planting arugula, to radishes, turnips, lettuce, and chard, these students came to work hard. They planted seed to feed those in need and their fall crops will be donated to local food pantries.

Pleasantville Elementary School Garden

At Pleasantville Elementary, Garden Coordinator Melissa Condit came up with a creative way for her students to stay connected as they watch their garden grow from afar. She and cafeteria staff members planted their garden and she will post pictures/videos on Schoology. Additionally, students and families received a link to request seeds from HFHK to plant at home to watch their vegetables grow along with the school. Students will be encouraged to take photos or videos and upload their Journal Entries weekly to a Garden Journal Schoology page.

Although in-person opportunities with students have been limited, HFHK staff have been working hard to revise our curriculum to align with the Next Generation Science Standards and also to create virtual lessons. Stay tuned for our Spring pilot. COVID-19 has certainly challenged us, but rather than retreat, we’ve pivoted to overcome adversity with these new fall feats!

Our Seed Giveaway (and New Gardeners Hooray!)

HFHK Board member, Lisa Hoffman, planted the seed for distributing seeds to the community. The idea flourished and Lisa, along with Children’s Garden Educator, Jen Cipolla, distributed veggie and herb seeds to 315 families! We are thrilled to see so many families engaging in home gardening. We continue to post tips and tricks on our Facebook and Twitter accounts and have updated our website with harvesting information for our new gardeners.

Above and Beyond: Garden Coordinator, Melissa Tracy brings School Gardening to New Heights

This spring we would like to recognize HFHK garden coordinator and high school social studies teacher, Melissa Tracy from Odyssey Charter School! In partnership with HFHK, the garden includes 24 raised beds with plans to expand in the courtyard post COVID-19. Beyond HFHK’s raised beds, Melissa added vertical containers and an indoor hydroponics system to enable year-round growing. In spring of 2019, the garden produced over 300 lbs of produce, 70% of which was donated to local food pantries.

Most recently she volunteered as a panelist for our “Digging Deeper: The Garden as a Catalyst for Interdisciplinary and Project Based Learning” webinar as part of our Food For Thought Series. Her multi-faceted approach for touching students lives through gardening was an inspiration to both educators interested in starting and expanding upon existing school garden programs. Melissa and her green team have planted the garden this summer and continue to make produce donations. In the future, Melissa plans to have a paid summer internship program with opportunities for students to engage in caring for the gardens along with the school chickens and goats. We can’t wait to see how she’ll keep this garden growing!

Friends Share the Beauty of Historic Oakdale Farm with HFHK

May 15th would have been a glorious day for our Garden Party fundraiser at Oakdale Farm! ‘Twas not to be, but these photos provide a glimpse of the incomparable beauty of the farm this spring. Gracious hosts Libby Sullivan Trammell and George Trammell would have shared the grounds of their historic home and gardens in a tour led by renowned horticulturalist David L. Culp.  Though coronavirus forced cancellation of the event, HFHK still benefited enormously from Libby’s many initiatives to cultivate interest in HFHK, and which resulted in many new individual donors. Not only that, but generous ticket holders were kind enough to donate the cost of their tickets to HFHK, and most wonderfully, our generous sponsor continued their support. The kindness of our supporters allowed us to still raise a significant amount of funding to help ensure our continued success during these uncertain times. We are so grateful, and hope you will enjoy this virtual breath of spring!

Food for Thought Webinar Series for Educators

We hosted a weekly series of four webinars for educators focused on how to start, sustain, and use a school vegetable garden as a catalyst to promote student learning. We had 167 attendees from across the globe. We received positive feedback and hope to host an in-person training in Delaware post COVID-19. According to post-workshop survey data: over 50% of respondents were inspired to start a new garden; 83% reported having a much better understanding of why certain gardening practices are important; and 97% gained knowledge, ideas, or perspective. We are excited that so many educators are interested in touching students’ lives through gardening.

Planting Seed to Feed Those in Need

Several schools planted HFHK gardens with the purpose of donating produce to local food pantries. Food is an essential need, however, produce is not always provided with food distributions. While taking appropriate safety precautions, we continue to partner with schools to fill an important community need that has heightened due to COVID-19.

Food for Thought Virtual Workshop

Join us for a FREE 4-part virtual workshop series supported by National Geographic Society. Learn how to start, sustain and use a school vegetable garden as a catalyst to promote student learning! Online workshops will be held on April 22, April 29, May 6, and May 14 from 7:00-8:00 PM Eastern Time.

Starting a School Vegetable Garden 101

Wednesday April 22, 2020, 7:00-8:00PM Eastern Time

Come learn how to setup a school vegetable garden that will enable students to participate in seed to table growing each spring and fall. In this workshop, we will discuss the academic and health benefits of a school vegetable garden program, our typical program structure and format, tips for building a garden, creating a garden map and plan for seasonal crop rotation, as well as the time commitment and resources necessary for the implementation of a successful program.


Sustaining a School Vegetable Garden

Wednesday April 29, 2020, 7:00-8:00 PM Eastern Time

This workshop will equip you with additional science knowledge and guidance to make the most of your vegetable gardening program and help ensure its long-term success.  When you look for gardening information online, are you confused about what is reliable advice and what is not?  Learning some basic science will help you answer questions like:  Should my school build a raised bed garden or an in-ground garden?  If so, what type of soil should we use?  Why can some vegetable crops withstand freezing temperatures and others cannot?  How long can I store seeds, and how do I take care of them?    What’s the difference between composting with worms versus using a traditional compost pile?  HFHK’s success in starting more than 30 school gardens is based on understanding and applying the underlying science.  If you love gardening, this workshop is for you, even if you are not a science buff!


National Geographic Geo-Inquiry Workshop: Featuring an Example of a Food Insecurity Project

Wednesday May 6, 2020, 7:00-8:00PM Eastern Time

This workshop will introduce National Geographic’s Geo-Inquiry Process and highlight an example of how a school vegetable garden was used as part of a food insecurity project featuring a collaboration between a formal and nonformal educator. Come learn how National Geographic’s Geo-Inquiry process can further students’ understanding of the world and empower them to make a difference. The Geo-Inquiry Process is an integrated, five-phase, project-based learning process that connects real-world challenges to the classroom and is applicable for both formal and nonformal educators across disciplines and grade levels. In this interactive session, educators will learn strategies to help students develop critical thinking skills to ask geographic questions, collect information, visualize data, create compelling stories, and ultimately become advocates for change in their own communities.


Digging Deeper: The Garden as a Catalyst for interdisciplinary and Project-Based Learning

Thursday May 14, 2020, 7:00-8:00PM Eastern Time

This phenomenal panel of educators will inspire you with creative ways to incorporate a school vegetable garden into your curriculum. Come learn how educators have used the school garden as a catalyst for both interdisciplinary and project-based learning. Please see below to learn more about our panelists.


Trevor Hance

Trevor’s work emphasizes the relationship between education, law, and the environment, cultivating transformative learning rooted in systems understanding, scaled perspectives, and legacy. As a teacher, he authored and managed several six-figure grants bringing public-private stakeholders together to develop nature-based learning spaces at a public school in Austin, recognizing biophilic design, topophilic connections, community, and holistic learning as essential elements of human development. As part of the physical evolution of the campus, he designed and implemented a learning model that transformed the school to “The School for Enrichment and the Environment.”

Daniel Kinzer

An avid traveler and adventurer, Daniel spent the past two decades living, working and learning in international schools, nonprofits and social enterprises across more than 70 countries and all 7 continents, including an expedition to Antarctica in December 2018 as part of his fellowship with National Geographic. He has focused on developing transformative action-learning, place-based programs with several partners in education, exploration, conservation and innovation, and is using that experience to support schools, innovator, entrepreneurs and environmental organizations around the world. From his home in Hawaii, Daniel is launching and co-creating Pacific Blue Studios: a Pacific network of community and place-based, youth-led, design and impact studios leveraging biomimicry, indigenous innovation and cutting-edge technologies as vehicles to help realize a sustainable, resilient, regenerative and inclusive future in Hawai’i, across the Pacific, and around our Blue Planet. 

Judith Painter

As a Geography Educator, a National Geographic Explorer, a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, and a parent, Judith encourages students (and her own children) to explore the natural world. Through a National Geographic grant, Beyond the Walls, Judith has spent most of the year having her students explore the natural and urban world around them. Additionally, Judith and a colleague are co-sponsors of the school garden in which they were encouraging teachers to explore with their students as the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders were issued. Now they have revised the school garden with the idea of creating a victory garden full of vegetables for school families.

Melissa Blair Tracy

Melissa is a National Board Certified social studies teacher in Wilmington, Delaware at Odyssey Charter School, an innovative and diverse dual language Greek school. Melissa currently teaches A.P. Human Geography, African-American History and Culture, U.S. History, and Food Studies at Odyssey and serves as the high school social studies department chair. Melissa is the KN-12th grade garden coordinator and the leader of the Green Team at her school. This past September Melissa participated in an expedition to the Galapagos as a 2019 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions.  Melissa is proud to be a Delaware educator, and she’s highly passionate about social justice, global studies, and ensuring that all students have opportunities to learn about food through the lens of power, the environment, and culture.