Category Archives: School Garden News

School Garden News – Murphys, California

Murphys School lets Children Play with Food
by Dana M. Nichols

School gardens are no longer primarily science experiments in which third-graders sprout radish seeds.
Hundreds of school gardens, including the beds of berry vines and onions planted in April at Michelson School in Murphys, also now may change the way students and their parents eat, combat childhood obesity and even give concerned parents leverage in efforts to improve cafeteria food…
The problem is nationwide. According to a Harvard Health Policy Review article published in Fall 2006, children’s intake of fresh fruit and vegetables has been falling for 30 years, and only 2 percent of school-age children now meet basic federal recommendations for a healthy diet. The article said part of the problem is that federal farm subsidies go primarily to grain crops, making those crops and the resulting products, such as bread, cheap when compared with fresh fruit and vegetables.
Schools and a variety of public and private agencies in California are fighting back by introducing gardening on a larger scale to many campuses.

For more on gardens, schools, and kids’ nutrition
California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom:
Foothill Collaborative for Sustainability:
Life Lab:
The Chez Panisse Foundation:
The Edible Schoolyard:
The California School Garden Network:

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School Garden News, Los Cerritos, California

School Garden #1

Did you know the Los Cerritos School Garden is an official Monarch Butterfly Waystation? The migration of hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies starts in Canada each fall and they travel all the way down to California and Mexico to spend the winter. Monarch waystations are places that provide the necessary resources for monarch to produce successive generations and sustain their migration. So if I understand this correctly, the monarchs are in Canada in the fall, they fly down to California, have some babies. The babies get the baton, keep flying down to Mexico. They hang out there for the winter, baton, California, baton, back up to Canada, baton…
Anyone, please tell me if I got the gist of this natural wonder – the monarch migration. You can visit Monarch Watchto learn more about the monarchs and how you can create an official monarch waystation in your own backyard! In addition to being good for the environment, the butterfly gardens are incredibly beautiful. Download the waystation application form and on it you will find lists of the milkweeds needed for the larvae, nectar flowers for the adults and the sustainable management practices to keep your monarch habitat healthy and happy!
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School Garden News – Tuscon, Arizona

Kids: It’s Easy Being Green

When Civano Community School second-grade teacher Marisa Bragoni’s students built a model community as a class project, they included a cistern to collect water.
“No one told them to include a cistern,” Bragoni said. “They built it in because they believe it is a way of life. Water cisterns and recycling are innate for them.”
In January, Civano Community School, 10673 E. Mira Lane in the Vail School District, was recognized as the greenest school in the nation. The school received a $50,000 award and was featured on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
Civano students not only practice being green at school and home, but also are spreading the word about the importance of protecting the Earth.
Fourth- and fifth-graders are writing letters, making posters and producing videos to send to other schools in the area, encouraging other students to go green.
Fourth-grader Nick May said their video will be about “recycling, biking to school, using less trash and creating less waste. We like to use containers with screw-on tops, not disposable ones.”
“We compost the fruit we don’t eat and put it in the garden,” said Cliff Bateman, another fourth-grader working on a video about composting.
The school’s organic garden, maintained by the students, is an important part of the school community.
“Because it is organic, we can eat the things in the garden,” said fifth-grader Tess Holmquist.
Fourth- and fifth-graders are stewards of the garden, Bragoni said, and the school curriculum is related to commitment to the environment. “When we study the human body (in second and third grades) the focus will be on health and nutrition. That is where the garden plays a role. And when we study weather, we talk about the importance of harvesting water when living in a desert climate.”
Learning to recycle has the greatest impact at home, teachers say.
“At home, we recycle cans, bottles and paper,” said first-grader Danielle Crain. “We learned to do this at school.”
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School Garden News – Davenport, California

Cooking, gardening program in Davenport serves up green principles

Rachael Ray’s got nothing on Auden Heitzler. Like a Food Network star, the Pacific School fifth-grader chops through an onion with uncanny skill, holding the base of the knife with one palm as she guides the blade with the other.

Her laser focus is understandable, considering she and three classmate sous chefs have less than two hours to prepare the crunchy slaw that will fill the Num Cha Gio Pale spring rolls for the exotic lunch menu she designed. In just 90 minutes, they will serve a Cambodian-inspired meal of Khmer baked chicken or tofu with a short-grain white rice to 100 hungry kids and teachers on top of red-checked table cloths as classical music softly fills the background.

Finished with a sliced mango and lime milk, the scene inside the school’s ocean-view lunch room is reminiscent of a Parisian bistro specializing in fusion food. But then again, most restaurant patrons aren’t encouraged by teachers during lunch to mind their manners, then asked to bus their own trays.

For nearly 25 years, fifth- and sixth-grade students at the Davenport public school have been cooking their own noontime meals through a revolutionary program taught by former Whale City Bakery and Grill owner Stephanie Raugust, now a local caterer who launched the project two decades ago as a parent displeased with unhealthy, unoriginal school food. The school is also ever-mindful of its relatively new culinary mission: Using as many organic, locally produced products as possible, including vegetables and herbs grown in its own garden.

Even before celebrity chefs and reality cooking shows became all the rage, the program has long been part of why half of the school’s enrollment consists of transfer students from nearby districts, including Santa Cruz, Bonny Doon and Pescadero. Other schools in the county have student gardens and vocational courses dealing with food and agriculture, but “Stephanie’s program really draws them in,” said Pacific School’s business manager, Noel Block.

Up to 100 students and adults buy the school lunch every day at $3-$3.50 a pop, though some students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Although Raugust is charged with overseeing the big operation, Block said the earthy cook “is fully qualified to run a three ring circus” considering her many years as a restaurateur.

While the Food Lab and its partner program, the Life Lab garden project, are designed to foster self-confidence, culinary skills and cultural awareness of other dietary traditions, the school has energized the curriculum with a new commitment to teaching and practicing sustainability. While many other school districts are working toward “greening” their lunch programs, most still buy bulk produce, meat and other lunch staples from large providers.

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School Garden News – Rochester, NY

An Outdoor Classroom Offers Lots of Food for Thought

A garden can do more than grow carrots and tomatoes. It can grow community, and self-reliance, and maybe even plant seeds of lifelong
health. That’s really the reason for Rochester Roots Inc., a nonprofit organization that does a number of “garden-based” educational programs aimed at teaching people how to grow good food (without pesticides or herbicides) and cook it, and how to protect the environment in the process.
This is the third year of a School-Community Garden Project, funded in part by a $270,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That money allowed Rochester Roots to hire some staff, buy a tiller, garden tools, fencing materials, seeds, greenhouse supplies, and a trailer to move materials around…
The program uses only heirloom vegetables, which have been in cultivation for at least 50 years without being hybridized — produce with striking names such as Imperial Star (artichoke), Climbing French (bean), Bull’s Blood (beet), Lunar White (carrot), Imperial Black Beauty (eggplant) and Blue Curled Scotch (kale).
Students and community volunteers, who work the garden in exchange for some produce, do market some of the vegetables during the summer at the South Wedge Farmers Market, “but we’re not trying to cut prices to sell all we have,” McDonald says. “Our main purpose is to show what we’ve done, talk to people about what we do and educate the community on how to grow healthy food.”
But, she says, “we do like the South Wedge Farmers Market theme — ‘the food less traveled.’ It’s grown close by. You can’t get any fresher.”Last year, the combined Community Food Project gardens yielded an amazing 6,344 pounds of produce — about 3¼ tons from 1½ acres of land.
“The children are learning about healthy foods, and how to prepare them,” says Susanne Willis, a retired city teacher who still works part time and volunteers at Clara Barton. “And we have older people who come out and work along with the children in the summer. That’s a real plus for them.”
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School Garden News – Redlands, California

Once a Grove, Always a Grove

A beautification project at Cope Middle School recently offered students a chance to connect with the history of Redlands.
“Students planted the citrus and can see how vital it is to the Redlands economy and quality of life,” said Emily Chase Bueermann, school garden coordinator and liaison between schools and the Kiwanis Club.
Cope students and faculty, along with community partners, planted an orchard and helped build a water garden in mid-March as part of the Kiwanis One Day community service project.
“Place-based education provides the ability for students to connect with what they’re learning and where they live,” Bueermann said.
The school site was an orange grove at one time, Bueermann said.
“It shows the students what had formerly been there,” she said.
The activity stressed a variety of curriculum.
“The connection with the students and orchard creates cross-curricular connections, including math, science, social studies, health and physical education,” Bueermann said.
The orchard will be used as a business model after the fruit is harvested.
“Whatever we have left we’ll bag up and sell at the school or at Gerrard’s Market,” she said. “We want to give the students the full benefit of not only the garden but the real-world business market.”

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School Garden News – India

Green Lessons Bear Fruit

NATURE CLASS: Students of Sisuvihar UP School at the vegetable garden that they tender and with the ‘valkindi’ that teaches them water conservation.

THERE is something in the whole atmosphere of this school that makes one fall for it. It’s just not the tended gardens, well-kept classrooms or well-behaved students, but a strong determination to make a difference. And the efforts have paid off well. The Sisuvihar UP School, Vazhuthacaud, has won the Green School State Award instituted by the Biodiversity Board for commendable environmental activities of a school. On Monday, hours before the award was presented by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan at the Thycaud Guest House, City Express joined the jubilant teachers and students at Sisuvihar. The Sree Sharada Devi Smaraka Sisuvihar UP School had caught headlines earlier too. The report on an innovative audio magazine, Spandanam, brought out by the students of this school was carried in these columns earlier. But nothing equals the environmental activities initiated here.

From ‘valkindis’ to conserve water to the medicinal herbs garden, the nature club of the school is active like anything. It had all started with the need to dispose the leftovers of the lunch brought by the children. The nature club got in touch with the Agriculture Department and the idea of installing a vermi-compost was born. The senior students belonging to class VII were given its charge. “It takes a minimum of three months before the vermi-compost actually yields result. So the idea of setting up a vegetable garden where this manure can be used was suggested and it was done,’’ says Sindhu, one of the teachers in charge of the nature club. The vegetable garden had everything to make a good feast. Long beans, amaranthus, lady’s finger, brinjal, bitter gourd, chilly and tomatoes. Last Onam, when the harvest was over, the nature club made a profit of nearly Rs 5,000 by selling the vegetables, while the capital was only Rs 2,000, says Sindhu.

School PTA president Pradeep and headmistress Vijayalakshmi are the silent inspiration for the students’ activities. The vegetable garden gradually paved way for a medicinal herbs garden with nearly 50 types of herbs, ranging from neem to koovalam, being planted here. With the gardens in full-bloom, the next problem that the students faced was shortage of water. It was then that the school experimented with the ‘valkindi’ project. “Two buckets are allotted to each classroom along with a single valkindi. The students have to use water from these buckets using the kindi to wash their hands or to clean their tiffin boxes. So, we saved water where, otherwise, the taps were opened unnecessarily and water was wasted,’’ says Akhil, nature club student member. The valkindis made in thick plastic were brought from Malappuram.

“ The students now know the importance of water. Even when they go home, they are careful to use water in a limited way, for they now know it’s precious,’’ says Sindhu.

The school had distributed 850 saplings to students under the ‘Ente Maram’ project. What’s more, they even have a ‘tree this month’ activity, where each month a specific tree is selected and students are made to collect information about them. The school also takes up environmental tours to Neyyar and Thenmala forest areas to introduce children to nature. It’s an unending list of activities and no wonder it has become the lone school in the State to have achieved the recognition. But it has only made them plan new ways to get closer to nature.

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