Category Archives: School Garden News

School Garden News – Orlando, Florida

Volunteers Transform Garden for Butterflies
Scouts and others pitch in to make the Endeavor Elementary nature site a hands-on teaching aid.
By Kenda Robertson,

When the students at Endeavor Elementary School in south Orange County learn about the life cycle of a butterfly, they no longer have to sit in a classroom and see the process through pictures in a book. That’s because the 800 pupils, ages 5 to 10, are able to watch the insect transform from a chrysalis to a full butterfly in their school’s 3,000-square-foot butterfly garden, which is an Audubon-certified sanctuary.

Purple weeping lantana, blue porterweed and red pentas greet the children each day as they pass through the garden on their way to the playground. As butterflies flitter and ladybugs crawl, the youngsters are introduced to the world of nature and a host of living things.

With more than 1,000 plants and 20 different species, there is a lot to see, touch and explore. A brick walkway allows pupils with disabilities to enjoy the garden, too. The idea to create the special educational garden at the school was developed about two years ago when Marriott Golf’s Grande Pines Golf Club in Orlando decided to become an Audubon-certified golf course through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. The program, which helps golf facilities protect the environment, calls for the golf club to complete several steps. One of those steps is to create an animal habitat outreach and education program, says Chris Flynn, golf course superintendent for Grand Pines. He and his team supplied straw and mulch for the school’s garden, installed an irrigation system, helped build the garden’s walkway and continue to assist with routine maintenance of the site.

Once the appropriate steps were taken, the golf club and the school’s butterfly garden officially became Audubon-certified.”We felt a butterfly garden would be an easy and fun way to get kids involved and make them aware of the importance of protecting the environment at an early age,” Flynn says. “It’s an incredible learning experience as they help weed and care for the plants.”

Scout takes the lead
When then-14-year-old Kenny Carter Jr., an Eagle Scout and former student at Endeavor, heard about the butterfly garden proposal at the school, he volunteered to take on the garden as an Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project.Carter says he wanted to give back to the school and faculty who “taught him well and helped him progress.” He also wanted to honor the memory of his grandfather, Aubrey Carter, a 35-year teacher who had died several months earlier, and to whom the garden was dedicated on Dec. 1, 2006.

Although it took a year and 700 hours of Carter’s time for the garden to be completed, he says it also required a lot of teamwork and collaboration from many others in the community for everything to turn out so well. To start the project, Carter recruited Shari Fling, a master gardener volunteer who designed the 50-by-66-foot sanctuary. The teenager also organized a fundraiser at the school to raise money to buy plants, worked with Lukas Nursery and Garden Shop in Oviedo to get the plants at a discount and enlisted the help of his Boy Scouts of America Troop 996 to plant the garden. As she drew up plans for the area, Fling says she chose hearty, drought-tolerant, nontoxic plants that are easy to care for and that attract specific butterflies.

Some plants are Florida natives including the brightly colored beautyberry, which attracts birds. She also used simple plants, such as pentas and lantana, because children can see and identify them at their local plant nursery.

“There are two things you need to attract butterflies — a source of food and drink,” Fling says. Larval and nectar plants provide these necessities and serve as an invitation to specific butterflies. In the end, Fling chose plants to attract about a dozen species of butterflies, including fennel, which attracts the black swallowtail, and milkweed, which attracts the monarch.

“We are indoors so much with computers and games that kids miss out on a lot of outside fun,” Fling says. “I want this garden to inspire these children to see caterpillars and butterflies, and allow them to touch nature without being afraid.”

Helping kids and teachers
Kristen Vadnais, kindergarten teacher at Endeavor, says she uses the garden to teach her 5-year-olds about living and nonliving things. She likes being able to take them to the garden and show them rocks, soil, leaves, flowers, insects and, of course, butterflies. “They always let me know when they see a butterfly,” Vadnais says. “They also point out the different colors of flowers, and like to look at the bugs.

“Vadnais says the garden is valuable for teachers, because it gives them a visual to go along with the verbal lessons. “Younger children learn more through visual, hands-on experiences,” she says. “They can see how insects live, learn how seeds grow and watch them sprout.”

Barbara Richardson, editor of, a nonprofit Web site, says kids whose learning styles aren’t compatible with classroom learning usually show an advantage in the garden, developing leadership and knowledge through action.

“The wonder that children experience when they plant a seed, see it sprout and cultivate it to maturity is unique,” Richardson says. “Just watch a child pull up a carrot for the first time, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.”

Carter says it took a lot of people to complete this important project, and he’s proud to have been a part of making it happen. “It was great how it came together, and everyone worked to help our community,” he says.

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School Garden News – Belize

Belize Sows Seeds for Food Security
Written by Megan Tady

“Vegetables in general are skipped out of the Belizean diet,” said Mark Miller, executive director of the development organization Plenty Belize. “Most of the cultures here used to have a much healthier way of eating than they do today. As time progresses, people are eating less and less healthy.”

In 2002, the organization started a school garden program in Belize’s southernmost Toledo District. The gardens are designed to educate young people about how to grow their own organic supplemental vegetables at home.

“We’re hoping that the concept of organic school gardens is institutionalized so that it becomes a norm that we teach our children, and that talking about our food, food supply and health comes as a regular part of what is done,” said Miller. “Whether [kids] grow their own food, or they appreciate where their food comes from, it gives them the ability to make better choices.”

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School Garen News – Longview, Texas

Gardeners learn science, math, community at Judson Middle School

By Adam J. Holland

A lot can be learned from planting a garden. Judson Middle School students are learning math, science and the art of multitasking by growing onions, potatoes and green beans.

The garden is an annual project of Bill Russell’s sixth- and seventh-grade science classes. Students on Thursday created their rows and started planting crops atop a hill at the campus entrance.
“The lesson is across the curriculum,” said Russell. “With the potatoes you have a 40 meter row — we do everything metric — and you’re planting a potato eye every 30 centimeters. A lot of it is soil science or just the structure and function of different plant parts.”

The academics part of the Judson Middle School garden is secondary though, Russell said.
“The best thing is kids learn to take care of something — a living unit,” said Russell. “They get to see how they affect the growth of the plants and see how everything works together.”

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School Garden News – Hayward, California

Joy of growing: Teaching garden know-how
By Kristofer Noceda (

HAYWARD — Youssif Rouchi tears off a piece of mustard greens from a school garden and eats it.

“Wow! Dude, this tastes like that wasabi stuff,” Youssif, 12, says to classmates.

“Hey, let me try,” a sixth-grader says. “Me, too!” another yells.

Mission accomplished.

Fairview Elementary School’s garden program has students excited to try out fresh fruits and vegetables, something officials say can only benefit kids in the long run.

“It’s horrifying because I hear the No. 1 thing kids like to eat is hot Cheetos,” said Debra Israel, who coordinates the Hayward Nutritional Learning Community Project in the Hayward Unified School District.

“This generation of children is not expected to outlive their parents,” Israel said. “It is horrifying.”

The Hayward Nutritional Learning Project, which also belongs to a county coalition that includes the San Lorenzo and Livermore school districts, is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Eighteen district elementary schools, a middle school and high school are part of the project in Hayward. To qualify for the program, a school must have at least half its students enrolled in free and discounted lunch program.

The idea began as part of a pilot program in 2003.

Christine Boynton, then a fifth-grade teacher at Burbank Elementary in Hayward, worked with the Lawrence Hall of Science and the botanical garden at the University of California, Berkeley, and created a classroom curriculum based on nutrition education.
“She realized it was hands-on, interactive, and appeared to affect classroom behavior in a positive way,” Israel said. “The next thing you know, everyone wanted to start school gardens.”

Boynton now works at the Alameda County Office of Education and directs the Nutritional Learning Community Coalition.

The curriculum has grown over the years, and coordinators at each participating school site have made their own additions.

Matt Nolan, who heads the project at Fairview, introduced a composting program this school year.

At the end of every lunch, students can donate their leftover fruit and vegetables to the “FBI” — which stand for fungus, bacteria and invertebrates — which turn it into food for the school garden.

Students then weigh how much food scraps they have collected for the day and mark it on a graph to track their progress for the year.

“The idea is to track how much food we save from landfills, while also learning and applying math skills,” Nolan said.

After students have entered the data, they take the leftover food scraps and dump the remains in a three-tier composting system.

“It’s about getting kids active, getting out, touching things and giving them an experience of making their own food,” Nolan said. “Many students don’t realize that food doesn’t just come from a grocery store.”

In addition to promoting healthy eating, the program has helped teachers temporarily drift away from test-driven lessons.

“With such an emphasis now focused on accountability and testing, teachers are saying this is the one fun thing students have left,” Israel said. “It’s engaging students in an interactive hands-on approach that seems to be strengthening their success in school.”

Meanwhile, students said they enjoy participating in the program because they know it helps the environment.

“The garden is important because it’s going to help the air become cleaner,” Rouchi said. “Plus, it helps us kids out too, because we know how to take care of a garden now and won’t have to hire a gardener when we get older.”

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School Garden News – San Diego, California

Garden teaches students about hard work and the food that they eat
By Joe Tash
February 23, 2008
The best part about working in a garden, said Morse High School junior Reginald Paragas, is planting seedlings in the ground. “It’s sort of like you started it. It’s your responsibility to take care of
The worst part? That would be the worm droppings.
“I’m just not a big fan of worms. The smell of it is immensely horrendous,” Reginald, 16, said of the droppings, which are used as plant food.
Reginald is one of seven students in the Seeds of Leadership Youth Garden program, which offers lessons about hard work, environmental awareness, healthy eating and growing your own food.
The program also offers paid internships through a $31,500 grant from the San Diego Women’s Foundation. Students work in the 4,000-square-foot vegetable and flower garden at Morse after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on Saturday mornings. They collect $400 at the end of their eight-week rotation, when a new batch of students takes over.
The grant, which runs through June, also supports a part-time coordinator, who teaches the finer points of composting, planting and methods of protecting plants from predatory bugs without pesticides.
Reginald and his fellow interns are tending to winter crops such as mustard and collard greens, kale, Swiss chard and several varieties of lettuce – all laid out in neat rows in the school garden, a fenced enclosure on the edge of a parking lot.
The produce grown in the garden is used in the Hungry Tiger, a student-run restaurant on campus; sold to teachers and school families; and eaten by the student gardeners themselves.
The garden is a joint project of the southeastern San Diego school and the San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project, a nonprofit group dedicated to increasing the supply of locally grown food.
“We’re seeing it as a model for other schools in San Diego,” said Julia Dashe, the gardening coordinator, who learned about organic gardening through her involvement with a program called the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, and in classes at UC Santa Cruz.
“It’s important for teens to have opportunities to do meaningful work and get paid for it,” said Dashe. “Work with dignity that gives back to the community and prepares us for the 21st century, with green technologies and a green economy.”
The garden program dovetails with the Terra Nova Academy, a 140-student “school within a school” at Morse focusing on environmental awareness, nutrition and culinary arts.
“We’re trying to help at-risk students get involved in school, giving them themes that will engage them,” said Terra Nova lead teacher Bridget MacConnel, who spent hours of her own time on weekends and during summer vacations to create the garden from a patch of shrubs with help from student volunteers.
The academy aims to prepare students both for college and food service careers, but also has a more practical side – MacConnel said many of Morse’s 2,700-plus students come to school hungry. More than half qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program. The Terra Nova program and school garden, she said, can help students make better choices about what they eat and drink, improving their nutrition and overall health.
Seeds of Leadership is open to all Morse students, and it involves not only getting their hands dirty, but going out into the community to spread the word about the importance of healthy, locally grown food. Recently, the interns spoke at a meeting of the Skyline-Paradise Hills Planning Committee, and they have also made presentations at elementary schools.
The current crop of interns is a mix of 10th-and 11th-graders, with interests ranging from football and wrestling to dramatic arts.
Tyree Roberts, 16, wants to study biology and environmental science in college, and he was told by a college recruiter that his application should include community service. That prompted him to apply for Seeds of Leadership.
“I probably wouldn’t be a farmer. But it’s actually pretty cool planting things, growing your own food,” Tyree said.
On the other hand, a life in the fields would suit Paul Achee, 15, just fine.
“I’d like to be a farmer. That would be the ultimate thing, my dream come true,” Paul said. “I love the interaction with nature and being able to dig in the earth in the middle of the city.”
Zaina Nunez, 16, said the lessons she has learned through her internship will make a difference in what she eats from now on.
“I didn’t know most of our food was grown with pesticides, and you could get cancer from that. That surprised me,” she said.
Morse students are especially in need of the lessons offered by the Seeds of Leadership program because, unlike other parts of San Diego, the surrounding community has no farmer’s market or commercial agriculture, said Dashe, the gardening coordinator.
“Southeast San Diego is one of the places I would call a food desert in San Diego,” she said. “There aren’t any commercial gardens in the area. There’s no local food production. Unless you grow it in your backyard, there’s no access to farm-fresh food.”
That may change if an ambitious plan by school officials becomes reality. MacConnel said a 1.5-acre plot on campus has been eyed as a site for a community farm to be run jointly by students and local residents. Food grown on the farm could be sold to restaurants and grocery stores, or could be used to make products such as salsa or salad dressing, which would in turn generate revenue for the high school.
Classes in business management, marketing, computer graphics and science could be built around the farm, MacConnel said.
While no funding source has been identified, MacConnel said, “It’s going to come to us any way and every way possible,” whether through donations, grants or volunteer effort.
“There’s so much that can happen.”

School Garden News – Minnesota

School composting is growing ‘dramatically’

Composting is taking off at schools throughout the metro area: It’s good for the environment, gives students an easy way to be green and can help reduce a school’s garbage costs because organic waste comes with lower tipping fees and taxes.

“The interest is growing just dramatically,” said John Jaimez, an organics and recycling specialist who has helped launched similar programs at eight Hennepin County school districts in the last five years.

As much as 80 percent of a school’s trash comes from its cafeteria and kitchen, and about three quarters of that is organic, he said.

Participating schools collect food, napkins and other nonrecyclable paper in biodegradable bags that are picked up by different trucks than those that haul regular garbage. The organic waste is inspected to make sure it’s at least 90 percent pure, then taken to a waste processing facility near Rosemount that sells the resulting compost for landscaping to buyers that include school districts such as District 196.
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School Garden News – Texas

Growing minds and bodies

While little girls and worms are a seemingly odd couple, school district officials say the combination makes sense. The worms help produce compost for the school’s garden, and teachers use the garden to educate students about the environment. “(The garden) provides a whole new canvas for inquiry,” said John Garland, assistant director of child nutrition for IDEA public schools.

While the organic garden is used as an outdoor classroom at the school, it also serves an equally important function: feeding the students fresh food that’s high in nutrients. The school garden produces 60 pounds of lettuce per week that is used in salads and other lunchtime meals for the school’s 1,200 students. That quantity could rise to 80 pounds per week by the year’s end. The garden also produces sweet peas, cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes. Garland said he tries to maximize the garden’s production in its limited space.

…The school is using the garden in some interesting ways to teach students about agriculture and the environment. Among the projects this year are:

* Science students looked at carrots to learn about roots.
* Art class students drew tomatoes growing in the garden.
* Seventh-grade students took soil samples to study soil fertility.

You teach pollination in science class,” Garland said, “and then you come in and see it.” Giving children an up-close look at food production teaches them a valuable lesson about “intimacy with life and intimacy with food production,” Garland explained. He recalled working with a group of students on a class project to plant sweet peas earlier this year. By the time they were harvested, the children were begging to eat them.

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