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School Garden News – California

Garden Grows Math, Science
By ERICA SHEN, The Press-Enterprise

Thanks to Garrett Frasier, a math and science garden at Clayton A. Record Jr. Elementary School in San Jacinto is one step closer to completion.

For his Eagle Scout project, the 16-year-old from San Jacinto solicited donations and rallied volunteers to lay concrete in the garden.

The 1,500-square-foot garden has planters in shapes such as triangles, rectangles and circles. It will be used to teach students horticulture and math.

Garrett Frasier, 16, of San Jacinto
(Photo by Erica Shen / The Press-Enterprise)
Garrett Frasier, 16, of San Jacinto, designed a garden at Clayton A. Record Jr. Elementary School as part of his Eagle Scout project. The 1,500-square-foot garden has planters in shapes such as triangles, rectangles and circles. It will be used to teach students horticulture and math.

Garrett, who belongs to Boy Scout Troop 908, started the project in September. After the planning stages, Garrett and his family and friends spent three Saturdays digging out dirt and pouring concrete.

Garrett said the project was a lesson in organizational and leadership skills.

“It taught me how to work with people and get something done,” he said.

Garrett’s friend, Kyle Holmes, who belongs to the same troop, worked on the garden for his Eagle Scout project earlier this year. He designed and constructed the wood frames for the garden and its geometric planters.

The school principal, Vince Record, said the garden has been a community effort. Besides the Boy Scouts, parents and volunteers from Home Depot also helped with the construction.

Record said the garden needs irrigation and a storage shed for hand tools. In the future, there may be some benches and a mural. Students will start planting in March.

School Garden News – Alabama

Lessons from the garden: Students learn about science and giving
By Peggy Ussery

When asked if they’ve ever eaten collard or turnip greens, the group of fifth-graders raised their hands. Some event kept their hands up when asked if they liked them.

Only a few students in Shiela Armstrong’s class at Rehobeth Elementary School had not sampled the green vegetables typically served up in the South boiled soft with a ham hock for flavor. But Armstrong intended to rectify that within the next day.

The students have been tending a vegetable garden since October, nursing a collection of greens and herbs from seeds, watering them daily and watching them grow in compost just outside their classroom door. Along the way, they’ve learned about the science behind plants, lessons in math and have even written environmentally-inspired poetry. Photosynthesis, carbohydrates, the benefits of nitrogen in rain water — they’ve studied it all.

Now that the time has come to harvest their winter vegetables, they’ll learn another lesson — how to help those in need. The greens will be donated to a local soup kitchen.

Students said they’ve enjoyed the experience.

“It’s really worthwhile watching things grow,” 10-year-old Ryann Firestine said. “It’s better than going to the store and buying it. It’s more natural.”

Along with the turnip and collard greens, the students planted parsley, cilantro and basil. Unfortunately, colder temperatures recently killed the basil.

The garden taught the students responsibility and patience. Some students plan on planting vegetable gardens at home or already have with their parents. And they’ve gained a new appreciation for where their food comes from in the first place.

“I see how much care and patience that you have to have to take care of it,” said Ashley Fleissner, 10.

Armstrong plans to expand the garden program with spring vegetables. She came up with the idea for the garden during the summer. She was contemplating new, fun ways to reach students and hold their interest. Gardening and cooking were skills she learned as a child from grandparents.

“With all the cool things they have at home to do, school gets boring and learning gets boring,” Armstrong said.

But what Armstrong hopes the students will value most is the impact they can have on the lives of others by donating the vegetables for those in need.

“The main purpose was giving back to the community,” Armstrong said. “Being compassionate and thinking about others. Being occupied with the right kinds of things.”

School Garden News – California

School Garden Teach Kids
By Kathryn Nichols

Garden manager Tanja Roos walks through the greenhouse at Carmel Middle School and plucks a ripe cherry tomato from a bushy plant near the back door. She hands it to a visitor, a vivid taste of summer in a little red globe.

Growing and harvesting vegetables – it’s so simple that even a child can do it. Yet this elementary activity is a springboard to learning about science, the environment, nutrition, and the sweet sensation of working together for a common goal.

New school gardens are blooming in California’s Monterey County with almost every year. Teachers and administrators are finding that the garden can be woven into just about every aspect of the curriculum, even history, cultural studies, foreign languages, and English.

At Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academy in Salinas, students often do creative writing and poetry projects in the garden. At All Saints Day School in Carmel Valley, kids hold an autumn feast each year to celebrate native American traditions of the harvest, using squash, corn and beans they’ve grown themselves. Not only that, but everyone loves being in the garden.

“After lunch, the kids had the choice of going to recess or working in the garden,” said Kim Derenzo, who up until recently was the garden manager/nutrition coordinator for Martin Luther King Academy. “It wasn’t unusual to have 40 to 60 students come out to work in the garden on any given day. And they really worked.”

“There’s nothing better than having kids out in the garden,” said Roos. “As much as we can get them involved, we do.”

School gardens aren’t a new concept – in fact, as early as 1909, Montessori was espousing gardening as a way to increase youngsters’ appreciation for nature, and to develop desirable traits like patience and responsibility.

But school gardens took on a new significance in the 1970s and 1980s, especially in the Bay Area, when famed Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters urged schools to grow their own produce and use it in cooking projects.

“Berkeley was the Mecca of school gardens,” said Roos, who grew up there and went on to managing Carmel Middle School’s remarkable garden, the Hilton Bialek Biological Sciences Habitat.

School gardens became even more desirable as a practical way to teach science skills, a green laboratory that needed only soil, seeds, sun and water.

As time went on, the schools also had the pressing need to teach children about nutrition, and there’s no better way to get kids to eat their vegetables – they are far more likely to try produce they’ve grown themselves.

Derenzo said she would often sample items with her students straight out of the garden – even raw beets and radishes. “They’d eat it up,” she said.

State and local grants became available for gardens, and groups like the California School Garden Network and the National Farm to School Network are now lending support in the forms of guides, curricula and information.

Enthusiastic parents, community members and staff have also been instrumental. Family members, teachers and college students worked side by side to develop Martin Luther King Academy’s garden a few years ago; “You’d see grandparents, parents, babies out there on work days,” recalls Derenzo.

At Carmel Middle School, turning 10 acres of open space into a garden was the dream of science teacher Craig Hohenberger and then-principal Carl Pallastrini, inspired by the garden and kitchen classroom established by Alice Waters in Berkeley.

Hohenberger started by taking his science classes outside in 2000, and planted an organic garden. Now it’s known as the Hilton Bialek Biological Sciences Habitat, named for a former Carmel School Board trustee who was an instrumental supporter of the garden. The Habitat currently includes a pond and small waterfall, a bee garden planted with native varieties to attract insects, a solar-powered greenhouse, a native plant nursery and an outdoor kitchen, as well as a stunningly beautiful one-acre vegetable garden; plans call for the building of a Green Education Center there in the near future.Every student at Carmel Middle School is involved in the Habitat in one way or another. If they’re not banding birds or helping with watershed restoration, they’re planting seeds in the greenhouse, making pizza in the wood-fired oven, or tossing vegetation on the compost heaps.

In 2006, the Habitat received the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, California’s top environmental honor, for its exceptional programs.

Not just public or elementary schools are going back to the garden. Preschool programs are offered at the garden run by Salinas Adult School, for instance. Community groups like the Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCA spend time at the Bialek Habitat. At All Saints, a private school in Carmel Valley, the garden area has expanded from five to 18 planter boxes and added a chicken coop last year, according to teacher Mandy Winston.

Winston directly teaches science to 24 fifth-graders and also rotates other classes, kindergarten through fourth, through the garden for a variety of programs.

“What always amazes them is being able to harvest something that grew from a seed they planted,” said Winston. “It’s like a light going on: ‘Hey, this is where it comes from!’ And they finally understand what part of the plant they’re eating.”

Fifth-graders at All Saints spend much of the school year learning about plant science concepts like photosynthesis and pollination; third-grade students have an agriculture unit that involves growing lettuce and having a salad party in honor of Monterey County’s most famous crop.

And research is discovering that garden-based learning does, indeed, pay off.

A 2005 study in Temple, Texas, found that third, fourth and fifth-grade students who participated in school gardening activities scored significantly higher on science achievement tests compared to kids who didn’t garden. There’s also evidence that children who get to try fresh vegetables develop better eating habits, and that through taking care of a garden, they learn a lifelong sense of stewardship and responsibility for the land.

“The passion our staff has for the garden is felt by the students,” said Roos. “Passion is addictive – it’s a magnet. It shows them this is an important thing to be doing. And the bigger picture is that this is about the health of our planet.”