Category Archives: School Garden News

Growing Minds: Installing An Educational Garden

I love a good success story, especially one that includes overcoming obstacles and coming out on top.  These are the stories that are a joy to publish.

Theresa Loe had been trying for three years to install a school garden at Center Street Elementary School in El Segundo, CA. In light of recent cutbacks she was hard pressed to find someone to step-up and help out.  She then found the local chapter of the Kiwanis Club who ended up coming through big time. Let his be lesson to all of us: never say die, never take no for an answer.

View the video below to see how it all came together, and be sure to visit Theresa’s blog, GardenFreshLiving.com , for her take on the day’s events.

Center Street School’s new garden from Borski Productions on Vimeo.

School Garden News – California

Helping young minds grow
By Lucia Constantine, student at Stanford University
MercuryNews.com

Ask a child today where his food comes from and he will be more likely to say a supermarket than the earth.

This ignorance is representative of the increasing disconnect between ourselves and the foods we eat. When it comes to eating, we are setting children up for failure by not providing them with the knowledge and the motivation to make informed choices about food. Children cannot be expected to know what they are not taught, and in most schools garden education is not an integral part of the curriculum. Yet by learning how to grow, harvest, and prepare fresh produce, they gain not only a deeper understanding of where food comes from but also an appreciation for food that tastes good and is good for you.

Garden education programs allow children to witness the miracle of transformation from seed to delicious meal. By involving them in every aspect of food production from planting seeds to tending the crops, and harvesting produce, children develop a sense of pride and ownership over the garden, which makes them more likely to try tasting the food they have grown and to value the food they eat.

Fruits and vegetables can be a hard sell, particularly to children. They rarely appear in television commercials nor do they come in brightly colored boxes. Given the established influence children have on their parents’ food purchases, advertising to children has become common practice in the food industry. The foods advertised are often high in fat and sugar but low in nutritional value. It’s unreasonable to expect children to demand healthy choices when they are continually flooded with images of junk food. A school garden represents an opportunity for children to get excited about eating fruits and vegetables. Because eating habits are established at an early age and contribute to later outcomes in health, it becomes increasingly important to teach children what to eat while they are still young.

Moreover, what’s going on in the garden or in the kitchen serves to reinforce what’s being taught in the classroom. Working in the garden or cooking in the kitchen can be both a hands-on activity and a lesson in history, math, biology or nutrition. Because food is such an integral part of living, lessons in the garden can be connected to almost any topic.

By making garden education part of the curriculum, every child can be exposed to the wonder and miracle of food production and enticed to enjoy more of the benefits of fresh produce. If your school does not have a garden education program, help them get started. Check out the Edible School Yard in Berkeley and Collective Roots in Palo Alto, two successful garden education programs in the Bay Area, for ideas and inspiration. Grants and funding for new projects are available through a variety of venues including the Environmental Protection Agency and Kidsgardening. If your school already has a garden education program, let those responsible for the program know how important it is and how greatly their efforts are appreciated.

School Garden News – Australia

School’s Patch is Popular
BY MEGAN GORREY, StGeorge.YourGuide.com.au

Green thumbs: Como Public School students. Picture: Lisa McMahon

A NEW vegetable patch on the grounds of Como Public School is sprouting with possibilities as students learn how to grow and harvest their own food.

The school garden was planted to teach children important lessons about healthy eating, the environment and sustainability.

Fresh produce from the garden will be used in the canteen and will be sold at the school’s regular market days.

School administration manager Beth Munro said students had been excited by planting and harvesting their own vegetables.

“They can have a hand in seeing real food grow, rather than just appear in the supermarket,” she said.

“They were so enthusiastic when they got to taste some of the foods for the first time.”

The garden was thought up by the school’s P & C committee and also contains marigolds.

School Garden News – California

An ecologically correct subject for students

By Elisabeth Laurence, SFExaminer.com

Wells_GardenOn duty: Shariff Hasan tends the garden at Ida B. Wells Continuation High School. Bret Putnam/Special to The Examiner .

SAN FRANCISCO – It’s not just English, math and science at San Francisco schools. Students are getting a vegetable education, learning how to grow, harvest and cook food grown in on-site school gardens.

Urban Sprouts, a four-year-old nonprofit that teaches gardening to 750 middle and high school students at gardens at six San Francisco public schools, makes growing food and cooking it outdoors a treat.

Students at Aptos Middle School, International Studies Academy, June Jordan School for Equity, Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, San Francisco Community School and Ida B. Wells Continuation High School learn the ABCs of what it takes to prepare soil, build compost “warm bins,” plant seeds, weed, prune and make meals out of just-picked organic vegetables and fruit.

Abby Rosenheck, executive director of Urban Sprouts, began the program while helping a colleague studying the benefits of school
gardens for students’ health.

She says, “Students get a lot out of it. One of the things we see right away is that they start to eat more fruits and vegetables. They get excited — before they thought vegetables were boring. Now they see how they grow in the soil. These are city kids. They learn more about the environment. And they bring that knowledge home to their families.”

At Ida B. Wells High School, principal Claudia Anderson has been a longtime proponent of the program, in which students work together and learn horticulture.

Senior Landall Bell, 17, says, “I’ve learned a lot about plants I didn’t know before. My favorite thing is to see the progress and the growth. It’s knowledge that will probably stick with me for a while.”

The school gardens are situated below a hillside on what may be the best view of The City, just off Alamo Square. Total square footage is about 50 feet by 25 feet. The space is divided into two long garden beds, terraced on different levels with a path between, so students can easily work on the plants.

The beds contain a mixture of crops. The current winter garden features collard greens, lettuce, onions, kale, chard, artichoke, oregano, mint, thyme and new potatoes.

Students enjoy the fruits of their gardening by learning to cook what they’ve grown; for example, preparing tomato soup with newly harvested zucchini.

Rosenheck says, “Students are the urban farmers of the future. With their skills, knowledge and interest they’ll be committed to health, the environment and the community. They’re advocates in a new way.”

For more information, visit www.Urbansprouts.org

School Garden News – Canada

Local Schools Get Planting
By EXPOSITOR STAFF, Brantfordexpositor.ca

Students at five local schools will develop green thumbs this spring as part of a garden project.

St. George-German, Mount Pleasant, Sacred Heart in Paris and Braemar House and Tollgate Technological Skills Centre, both in Brantford, will take part in the new School Food Garden Start-Up Program, a pilot project of the Brant Healthy Living Coalition.

Teachers will use the gardens as outdoor classrooms to deliver curriculum and hands-on learning experience to students of all grades, including lessons on plant growth, sustainability, science, nutrition and health.

PLANTING SEEDS

Some schools may also use vegetables they harvest in their existing breakfast and lunch programs.

Plans range from building outdoor garden beds and greenhouses to indoor containers.

“Given our harsh winter climate, schools in Ontario have a relatively short growth and harvesting period,” said Jillian Welk, health promoter for the health unit and co-coordinator of the coalition.

“However, there are a number of garden activities that schools can do during the winter months, including growing seedlings in windowsills, garden artwork, and planning crops and harvest activities for the following year,” she said.

To be eligible for the program, schools were required to develop a school garden committee that could include teachers, staff, students, parents and other community volunteers.

Each school received $1,000 for tools and supplies, a food garden guide and two on-site consultations with a food gardening expert.

School Garden News – Florida

Cultivating Young Gardeners
By Ron Matus, Times Staff Writer, Tampabay.com

Behind Lakewood Elementary in south St. Petersburg, the college student poked the dirt with her fingers, leaving a trail of tiny craters. When she gave the word, fifth-graders, snug in winter coats, plucked seeds from their palms and plopped them in.

The students from Eckerd College and Lakewood were cultivating their new school garden, a project that supporters hope will yield more than a bumper crop of watermelon and broccoli.

“My goal is to get them to appreciate life,” said Larré Davis, a special education teacher at Lakewood whose students work in the garden twice a week. “They think a hamburger’s just a hamburger. This will give them a new appreciation for lettuce and tomato.”

In Tampa Bay and around the country, more patches of schoolyard are being tilled and tended, a trend that’s sprouting from a rich compost of other factors: the obesity epidemic and a surge in environmental awareness. A push for more outdoors teaching and more hands-on learning in science. Maybe even a desire for schools to offer more practical lessons in a bad economy.

“People may be coming at it from all kinds of specific interests, but they are converging on the same thing,” said Laurel Graham, a University of South Florida sociology professor who helped start the Tampa Bay School Gardening Network in 2007.

Nobody tracks the number of school gardens nationally, but the anecdotal evidence suggests a budding movement.

California handed out $10.8 million in 2007 to seed nearly 4,000 new and existing school gardens. In Rhode Island, a coalition of growers and educators is aiming for a garden at every school by 2010.

Even stronger evidence backs a more general trend. In 2005, 30,000 people subscribed to a kids gardening newsletter put out by the National Gardening Association. Now, 170,000 are signed up.

Around Tampa Bay, full-fledged school gardens are still rare. But there are signs of life.

About 50 Hillsborough teachers attended workshops that Graham and other USF researchers held last year. In December, the garden at Learning Gate Community School, a charter school in Lutz, was cited in an Education Week story about outdoor learning, which supporters say is a better fit with kids’ brains and learning styles.

At Dowdell Middle near Tampa, students are growing floating lettuce heads in hydroponic gardens.

“A lot of our kids are eating french fries and pizza,” said Dowdell science teacher Allan Dyer. “The idea was, if we got them to grow something healthy, maybe they’d eat it and choose those things in the future.”

Lakewood’s garden is a series of 14 raised beds, bordered by yellow marigolds to ward off rabbits and other critters. Carrots, corn, squash, sunflowers and a dozen other crops are either in the ground or ready to be transplanted from a closet-sized greenhouse.

Eckerd students laid out the garden in December. But the idea was dreamed up by Kip Curtis, an environmental studies professor at Eckerd whose two children attend Lakewood.

“I kind of happened to be at the right place at the right time,” he said.

Curtis’ parents were back-to-the-land believers. He grew up on a farm. At Lakewood, he saw an opportunity to root an educational program in agriculture.

Lakewood principal Kathleen Young saw an idea that meshed with the school’s magnet focus on medical science and wellness, as well as an opportunity to expose her students, predominantly low-income and African-American, to careers in science.

“It’s opening doors for them to think outside of, ‘I think want to be a teacher or I want to be a nurse,’ ” she said.

The Eckerd students are the Miracle-Gro in the mix.

About 15 of them are helping, with a revolving schedule that has at least three of them onsite every school day between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Many of them are getting class credit. But many are also going above and beyond, taking steps to become official mentors to Lakewood students who have emotional and behavioral disabilities.

One day last week, they helped those students plant chives and look for earthworms in the compost pile.

“Oooh, look at that!” said 11-year-old Cortez Cox, who like many of the students had never gardened before. “Something’s in there moving.”

Davis, the special education teacher, said the garden is having a powerful effect on her students. They describe the garden as “ours,” not “mine,” she said.

“Before, we were all mean to each other,” said John Grant, 12. “But now, if you have a watering can, and somebody wants it, you say, ‘Here.’ ”

The school plans to use the garden for other grades and classes.

Already, prekindergarten students have turned the soil in their hands, and second-graders have made ceramic signs with images of vegetables.

Eventually, the garden will be ripe for lessons on everything from photosynthesis to the web of life, said Peggy McCabe, the school’s science curriculum coordinator.

Students will be able to collect data on plant growth, test soil samples and watch the life cycle of butterflies, she said.

Better yet, they’ll get to reap what they sow. A harvest party is set for April.

FAST FACTS
Helping and learning

• The Lakewood Elementary garden project is in need of supplies, including 25 pairs of kids work gloves, a dozen hand shovels, watering cans, a tool shed, border fencing, a garden bench and a trellis for peas and cucumbers. If you’re interested in helping, contact Kip Curtis at (727) 864-7854 or curtiska@eckerd.edu.

• To read updates about the project, go to a blog maintained by the Eckerd students, theedibleschoolyard.blogspot.com/.

• If you’re interested in starting a school garden of your own, you can find a downloadable guidebook at the California School Garden Network, www.csgn.org/. You can also get tips and support from the Tampa Bay School Gardening Network, web3.cas.usf.edu/tbsg/.

School Garden News – Arizona

School’s gardening way yields national attention

By Rhonda Bodfield, arizona daily star, azstarnet.com

Primary school teacher Molly Reed can cook, but she’s no Rachael Ray in the kitchen.

So imagine her surprise to be flying to New York as a special guest on the cookbook queen’s daytime television show.

Reed herself brought the limelight to Borton Primary Magnet School, even though she jokes that she’s now appealing to her principal for help in picking an outfit for her national debut.

She sent an e-mail to Ray last fall, explaining how the school’s community garden is being used to tackle poor nutrition and obesity at Borton, 700 E. 22nd St.

The school, which has a focus on inquiry-based project learning, long has incorporated some small gardens into the curriculum. In fact, by Principal Teri Melendez’s count, there are a dozen gardens at Borton, most of them small plots belonging to specific classes.

Last year, Reed had a class garden, which culminated in a harvest celebration, including a stir-fry using the veggies they’d grown. She was there to guide their first experience with tofu.

Inspired, she successfully wrote a grant and the new schoolwide garden was built with community muscle, technical expertise from the Community Food Bank and a lot of soaking and digging, digging and soaking.

Although a run date hasn’t yet been determined, the film crew already spent a day out at the school late last month, capturing the students in the garden and as they ran the occasional farmer’s market where students washed, packaged and sold their harvest, including lettuce, arugula, radishes and broccoli.

Their last effort sold out in two days and brought in $60, which helps support the garden.

Students improve literacy by writing factoids about each plant — carrots, for example, apparently come in seven colors. The project also helps teach math, with students adding purchases, making change, weighing vegetables and charting growth.

There are a million lessons to be taught. They’re learning that just because eggs are blue or brown doesn’t mean they’re rotten; that the tall leaves are clues to unearthing carrots with a little heft; and how to harvest broccoli — which, if you’ve ever seen it grow, is a legitimate question.

A confessed “chocoholic,” second-grader Alexandra Holiman said her family subscribes to Ray’s magazine, which she finds amusing because there’s a recipe every month for folks who cook for their canines.
Fortunately, she’s also a carrot-snacker, which is why she likes harvesting. “They’re really sweet. They are so good I want to eat them all.”

The new project is an extension of the school’s overall focus on good health.

Two years ago, the school started offering salads with nonfat dressing as a lunch choice.

It has a walking club and schoolwide jump-roping in the morning.

“We want children to know what’s healthy for them so that they can make good choices as they go through life,” Melendez said.

Reed’s students have an even clearer picture of how food affects health. She won a mini-grant last year to set up a student-powered bicycle generator to show students how it takes energy to make energy.

Initially only able to pedal about 10 seconds because of the high levels of friction, they learned about how they need to eat well to be strong. On Monday, one student pedaled for 280 seconds.

Second-grader Allie Tucker attributed some of the growth to the garden. “Sometimes, we eat from there, and the vegetables help make our bones strong.”

Reed said breakfast for her students at the beginning of the year all-too-often consisted of sugary cereals or hot cheese puffs. But after months of sampling the edible plants and herbs grown in the garden, she’s seen a big change.

“I never thought I’d hear a 7-year-old say, ‘I love chard,’ or ‘I prefer kale over greens.’ “