Category Archives: School Garden News

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.”

School Garden News – Oregon

Growing lunch
by Leslie Cole, The Oregonian

Schools embrace healthier kids with locally-grown foods

Mention school lunches, and it’s hard to find someone who’s not hungry for change.

Maybe you can’t see, smell or taste it just yet, but the shape of public school meals is shifting, in the Portland area and beyond.

Food costs are climbing, money is tight and results that resonate with families across the state will take time. But right now, the future of the school cafeteria looks promising.

Some recent developments:
• Two years after a splashy pilot program of scratch cooking and gardening began at Abernethy Elementary in Southeast Portland, Oregon has new positions in two state agencies dedicated to what’s known as “farm-to-school.”

Cory Schreiber in the Department of Agriculture and Joan Ottinger in the Department of Education are charged with connecting farmers with school cafeterias, encouraging students to eat more local fruits and vegetables, seeding a statewide school garden program and getting lessons about food into classrooms.

• Local purchasing has taken a big leap forward. More than 32percent of Oregon schools buy some of their food for school lunches from farmers and processors in their communities, according to an Oregon Department of Agriculture survey. Recently relaxed rules in the 2008 federal farm act encourage more local purchasing. School districts that buy more than a certain dollar amount must get bids on food purchases. For many years, it was impossible to cite a preference for local products (meaning Washington, Oregon and Northern California) when soliciting bids. Last year, that restriction was removed.

Despite other hurdles — and there are many — school food service directors are buying fresh fruits and vegetables from nearby farmers when they can, with little or no additional federal or state money in their pockets.

A yearlong grant from the Kaiser Permanente Community Foundation has given enough oomph to two public school districts — Portland and Gervais — to put not just locally grown produce on lunch trays, but also monthly hot entrees in Portland schools using Oregon products.
Doug BeghtelThe food that students grow end up in the cafeteria and could someday, school officials say, defray as much as 20 percent of the cafeteria’s produce costs.
“We want to use it to demonstrate what could be possible statewide,” says Deborah Kane, vice president of the food and farms program at Ecotrust, which supports farm-to-school activities around the West.

What’s missing is permanent funding. Oregon is one of only a handful of states that does not provide money for public school meals. School districts need more resources, say a coalition of food and public health activists working on farm-to-school issues, to create programs that reach every student.

Farm-to-school supporters are gearing up to ask for it: State Reps. Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and Brian Clem (D-Salem) plan to introduce legislation in 2009 requesting that the state match a portion of the federal dollars if districts purchase Oregon foods. If the bill is enacted, the state would kick in as much as 15 cents for every lunch and 7 cents for every breakfast to purchase foods produced, packaged or processed in Oregon. The proposed legislation also would provide up to 150 grants for complementary food- and garden-based education, up to $10,000 a school year for each of two years.

Meanwhile, some Oregonians aren’t waiting. School gardens are taking root in pockets around the state, helped along by community members, passionate teachers and parent volunteers. With grants and donations, a new culinary arts program is getting off the ground in the Centennial district, with the hope of introducing at-risk teens to a lifetime of more healthful eating.

Stay tuned. Meanwhile, sample a few stories of change, below.
lesliecole@news.oregonian.com

Farm-to-school links:
Ecotrust (events, program overviews, assistance and legislative updates),
www.ecotrust.org/farmtoschool

National Farm to School Program
www.farmtoschool.org

Portland Public Schools’ Local Lunch program
www.nutrition.pps.k12.or.us/.docs/pg/10173

Growing Gardens’ school garden resource page
www.growing-gardens.org
(click on Resources, then School Gardens)

Bend/LaPine farm-to-school program
www.bend.k12.or.us
(click on Parents, Nutrition, Menus, and Farm to School)

Centennial Learning Center
www.centennial.k12.or.us/schools/clc

Our Generous Garden

Fellow Master Gardener Anne Nagro (Illinois chapter) has recently published a non-fiction children’s book, Our Generous Garden. The book is based on Anne’s successful seed-to-table elementary school garden project that last year donated 900 pounds of produce to a local food bank. The easy-to-read text written from a child’s perspective follows students as they find the perfect garden spot, design their garden, grow seeds in the classroom and plant the seedlings outdoors. A few recipes are included as well. It is available here from Amazon.com or from Anne’s website, GardenABCs.com. While perusing GardenABCs, be sure to check out the Resources page, as well as the Library page. Great stuff for both garden and classroom.

School Garden Resource Fair

Hope to see you all there!

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s
CALIFORNIA INTSTRUCTIONAL SCHOOL GARDEN PROGRAM
ANNUAL RESOURCE FAIR
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2008  10:00am-2:00pm

AT THE “HIDDEN GARDEN” IN NORTH WEDDINGTON PARK ADJACENT TO
Rio Vista Elementary School
4243 Satsuma Ave North Hollywood, CA 91602

OVER 50 RESOURCE TABLES!
OVER 50,000 FREE VEGETABLE SEEDLINGS!
FREE GARDEN SUPPLIES, WORKSHOPS, AND MORE!
KEYNOTE ADDRESS by Tim Alderson, Chair, California School Garden Network
FREE To All Administrators, Teachers, Volunteers, Parents and Students
No pre-registration necessary. Supervised child play area available.

Sponsored by the LAUSD Instructional School Garden Program and CSGN Los Angeles, www.csgn.org
For more information contact: Tonya Mandl, tonya.mandl@lausd.net & Mud Baron, m.baron@lausd.net

School Garden History – Hiram Young

Hiram Young was born a slave in Tennessee in the early 1800s.  After purchasing his freedom as young man, he became famous as a wagon builder during the early trail days and westward expansion…After the Civil War he returned to Independence, MO and started his business again.  During this time frame he built a school to educate African American school children in the Independence area.

First Young School 1874-1934, Independence, MO.

Click link above for more on the history of Hiram Young.

School Garden News – Los Angeles, California

L.A. Unified’s gardening program may be uprooted
The effort that has flourished among students could get cut amid the district’s budget woes.
By Jennifer Oldham, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

The seeds of a thousand lessons are sown in five acres of North Hollywood dirt, tended by a man named Mud.

Here in this little-known oasis, Mud Baron and urban teenagers with a heretofore unknown penchant for rare flowers toil under a blazing sun to raise lemon verbena, tomatoes, lettuce and other greenery that hundreds of Los Angeles schools will use to jump-start their gardens this fall. They also cultivate exotic plants, including exuberantly colored dahlias the size of dinner plates, to sell at farmers markets.

Jesse Sanders, 18, a recent graduate who supervises his peers and sports a Mohawk, lip and ear piercings and black clothes, recounts how learning to make colorful floral arrangements from plants he raised himself kept him from getting kicked out of school.

“When I first saw a flower, I just saw a flower. Now I see so much more,” Jesse said, plunging his gloveless hands into the dirt. “I don’t think I would have graduated without this class senior year.”

Mud and the school’s veteran agriculture instructor, Rose Krueger, took an interest in Jesse and enrolled him in floral arranging and agriculture classes.

For several years, Mud volunteered his services before administrators used a $1.7-million state grant to hire him and several other gardening experts last fall to help teachers revive gardens at schools from South L.A. to Sylmar.

“I’ve learned what city kids can do if given a chance to grow in the garden,” said Mud, 38, the son of a Mercedes-Benz dealer who has semiretired as a cabinetmaker. “I’m much happier than I was building kitchens.”

Mud doesn’t hold a teaching certificate, but his expansive knowledge of plants prompted his students to nickname him “Discovery Channel.” A fast talker who quotes Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Lennon in the same conversation, Mud devotes so much time to school gardens that the yard at the 1920s bungalow he shares with his wife and 8-year-old son languishes.

But district money is running out. Mud distributes Razzmatazz dahlias like cigars at events around town in hopes of garnering donations to fund the program — and his job — past June 2009. It’s a tough proposition: Administrators face a $460-million budget gap and the prospect of increasing class sizes and reducing programs.

District officials are not optimistic.

“I don’t see us at this moment picking up that program,” said Senior Deputy Supt. Ramon C. Cortines. “I will, if he talks to me, try to help him get some philanthropy dollars, or other dollars to continue the program.”

But Mud and his crew aren’t deterred. With their colorful bouquets in hand, they try to teach administrators and politicians the value of outdoor education.

In the last few weeks, the teenagers have raised $830 hawking sunflowers, roses, herb bowls and other freshly cut plants at the downtown farmers market — and at an impromptu market at district headquarters.

Farmers market manager Susan Hutchinson said the students provide “definite competition” with the other flower sellers outside City Hall.

The students, who have not yet decided what to do with the proceeds, probably will stay through September — working weekends and afternoons after school starts — to help fill the North Hollywood garden’s greenhouse with seedlings for about 526 schools. Funds solicited from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s summer jobs program to pay the students are running out.

While they’re downtown, Mud and his apprentices are also cultivating relationships with Los Angeles City Council members, department heads and their staffs — who often gladly accept unsold greenery. The crew recently chatted up council staff from Encino, Van Nuys and South L.A., and commissioners from the Department of Public Works.

The hands-on business lessons for the teenagers, who already work at the garden during their own time on weekends to raise additional crops, are new for a district that until last year largely relied on motivated teachers and parents to donate money and time to help its gardens thrive.

The plots often died when benefactors left, said Tonya Mandl, a teacher advisor who administers the grant funds.

“There is no Los Angeles Unified gardening program — we’re it,” she said.

Even though state educators called for a garden in every school in the mid-1990s, little public funding has been available to create organized programs. In districts throughout California — most notably at Berkeley Unified, with its Edible Schoolyard founded in part by local chef Alice Waters — teachers have found that gardens help raise test scores by linking math, science and history lessons with hands-on learning.

With his trusty plastic cart with buckets bursting with amaranths, gladioluses, roses and his signature dahlias by his side, Mud has also charted some wins for the district’s gardening program. He persuaded a recalcitrant Board of Education to pass a measure last fall encouraging schools to plant gardens to entice kids to eat more fruits and vegetables. The motion also urged administrators to save gardens from being paved over for parking.

“Mud came to me and said he was concerned because with all the school construction programs and adding on additional buildings the gardens might be jeopardized,” said board member Julie Korenstein.

She added that preserving gardens is now board policy but acknowledged that board members can enforce it only if someone lets them know a garden is threatened.

Earlier this month, Mud and his crew began a new project: a farmers market served up in the cafeteria at district headquarters, where he hopes to persuade administrators to include money to retain existing gardens and build new ones in a $7-billion school construction bond scheduled for the November ballot.

“The market is a demonstration of what we can do to an audience that is very, very removed but potentially receptive,” Mud wrote in an e-mail soliciting donations from gardening teachers. “You’ve got to stand up and have your green beans counted.”

He and his crew also plan to sell produce and flowers at a downtown street festival today. All of these events prompted Jesse Sanders to borrow Martha Stewart magazines to study how to create expensive bouquets.

Showing off his newfound knowledge of gardening terminology, Jesse ducked under a 6-foot-high amaranth recently as he demonstrated how to cut the red quill-like flower “under the terminal bud” so it would produce more blooms.

Mud, who says his hobby is “giving away flowers,” is often asked to cater events with his dahlias and other flowers. At a recent luncheon hosted by state Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) in South El Monte, for example, he said his 15 bursting buckets were “stormed upon at the exit by all these Latino and Chinese grandmas. It was a free-for-all.”

Mud says he still has a lot of ground to cover in his quest to provide aid to more than 1,000 teachers who tend school gardens and to persuade administrators not to pave them.

“It’s a huge district,” he said. “People don’t even know I exist.”

Click here for photos.

School Garden News – Canada

Kids’ summer garden project
Produce being gathered for school soup day
Posted By JEREMY ASHLEY, INTELLIGENCER.CA

A small group of west hill youngsters have found a way to enjoy the summer weather while making their school and community a better place.

Several times a week, a few of the neighbourhood’s kids wander down to the vegetable garden in front of Prince Charles Public School on Ritchie Street.

Sometimes they pull weeds, other times the group works to harvest any bounty and hand it over to teachers for storage. To date, the crew has gathered tomatoes, potatoes and lettuce.

“It’s something we just do without thinking — our school is about teaching us not to be couch potatoes, to get out and get active,” said Kacie-Anne Murray while taking a break from pulling weeds Monday.

“We come here all the time … it’s actually our summertime hangout,” added the Grade 5 student. “So maybe those kids who are sitting around should get up and get active — it’s working for us and we always have a lot of fun.”

Prince Charles Grade 1 teacher Nancy Anderson said it was encouraging to see children take such a proactive role in keeping the garden going despite being in the midst of summer vacation.

“It’s really wonderful to see them here all the time,” she said while surveying the work completed this week.

The garden, she said, was started in the springtime by the Prince Charles Gardening Club after a number of vegetable plants were donated to the school by either parents, teachers or “just people in the community.”

Anderson said the plan is to use the harvest gathered over the summer and fall months to make a batch of soup large enough to feed the entire school body.

“It’s going to be a great event, a school soup luncheon,” she said.

Click here for complete article.