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Mount Greylock Wellness Students Plant Perennials at Sweetwood
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
06:10AM / Sunday, May 29, 2022
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Mount Greylock students pose for a photo next to the perennial garden they planned and planted at Sweetwood senior living center next to the school's campus.

Mount Greylock students leave painted stones that will be placed in the garden after it is mulched.

One of the stones the students decorated to place in the garden.

The new pollinator garden at Sweetwood already has a few blooms just weeks after it was planted.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Life at the Sweetwood senior living center is a little more colorful thanks to the efforts of a group of students from Mount Greylock Regional School.

"In my class, I wanted them to do some kind of gratitude project, that's how it started," explained Lynn Jordan, who teaches a social emotional wellness class at the middle-high school.
"We made a list at the beginning of the semester to see what they wanted to do, and they decided they wanted to work with Sweetwood. We found out we couldn't go into the building, but the garden is something we discussed a few years ago."
And this was the year those talks came to fruition.
Under Jordan's direction and with the assistance of the staff at Whitney's Farm Market and Garden center, the students rehabbed a garden space at the rear of Sweetwood's campus with brand-new plantings of native perennial plants that residents will be able to enjoy for years to come.
"The physical work started, probably at the beginning of May," Jordan said recently. "Because I have two classes, we took half a day and did a field trip to start the project. Both classes went over.
"It took 2 1/2 hours for 30 of us. … We were fortunate that we can walk through the woods, go over, plant a couple plants and come back."
On Monday, the classes of juniors and seniors were back at the school's next-door neighbor to survey their handiwork, leave stones with inspirational messages that will be placed in the garden once mulch is added and enjoy a thank-you ice cream sundae provided by Sweetwood's director of recreation.
"Our residents like the idea that we have students working on the projects," Janice Paquette said. "It definitely enhances our campus. We're excited about watching it grow and mature. Most of these kids, I gather, are seniors, so they won't get to see it mature. But I'm excited about seeing how it's all going to look."
Paquette said that in years past, residents had attempted to use the space to raise vegetables but interest had waned since few Sweetwood residents prepare their own meals.
The perennials will add beauty of their own and support pollinators, like butterflies, that will further enhance the campus.
Meanwhile, the Mount Greylock students derive the benefits of working to achieve a goal and giving back to the community, Jordan said.
The project was funded with proceeds from a grant Mount Greylock received from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to promote multigenerational connections between high school students and older adults.
It is not the first time that Jordan's students have collaborated with Sweetwood, but it is the first time since the advent of the pandemic.
Other classes have chosen other types of service projects.
"In the past, we've spent the day at Hancock Elementary School, and we had four students for each class who ran a whole class on social emotional learning," she said. "We did outdoor yoga. We ran programs to talk about themselves and their different feelings. We had lunch with them. Because they have a small school, it worked out well for us.
"We also have done a lot of cleanup around our property — showing that we're grateful for our custodians by helping them out. We've painted rocks with nice sayings on them and put them all over Williamstown, North Adams and New Ashford. We did that two years ago. … It's been fun to be able to do those kinds of things for the community."
Right now, Jordan said, social emotional wellness is an elective at the high school, but she hopes to see it become a graduation requirement because she believes that kind of learning helps students live more satisfying lives.
"Our kids are so high achieving," Jordan said. "They get down on themselves when they get an A-minus on a test. Their stress level is out of control.
"Learning how to meditate, how to do yoga, how to take breaks during the day — they're taking these tools and hopefully taking them with them when they go forward. I get letters from kids who are in college and are still journaling. It's been very rewarding in that way."
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