Matt Garcia Career and College Academy
The Matt Garcia Career and College Academy garden installation had around 60 participants over a period of two months. These participants included two sixth-grade classes eager to get their hands in the soil and begin planting! This garden was a revitalization of a project that was created a number of years ago; but that came to a stop after the teacher in charge of it left for a different school. Project activities included providing blueprints of the garden to both classes so that they could support in the creation of a garden design. One class chose to work in 3-4 person groups, the other chose to create individual designs. They were invited to think of who would utilize the garden: people, animals, insects, etc. These designs were then taken into account when the final design was created, and elements from student designs were used when applicable. In this design they also included what fruits and veggies they would like to plant.
Results and Impact
The installation of the garden was advanced by our champion teacher taking ownership of the garden. While we were there to support, he was phenomenal about guiding his class through the different tasks needed in order to complete the garden when we were not there. The kids enjoyed the garden, too, and it gave them an opportunity to learn why we sheet-mulched, why plastic on the ground is not ideal and the role of the different plants that were planted. This educational opportunity also allowed them to learn hands-on about soil health, design and where their fruits and vegetables come from. Students are also currently germinating seeds, which will eventually be planted in the garden. This is a great way to take learning opportunities outside of the classroom.
The goal for this garden is to eventually serve as an elective for other children in order to have all of the students learn hands-on, and have a farm-to-table approach to their learning. Currently, we are accessing the possibility of having nutrition classes given by our partner Innovative Health Solutions.
Over the next five years this garden will create at least 202 pounds of food, which is about 168 meals.
School gardens need approval by the district and an engaged principal is key to moving things forward in a reasonable manner. A champion teacher who is passionate about gardening and about hands-on learning is also a must, and brainstorming ways of including as many students and programs as possible is also ideal. Equally as important is gaging where the interest of the students and teachers benefit the project. For example, students at Matt Garcia were fascinated by the soil and insects, as such we were purposeful about learning about soil. Teachers were interested in nutrition, and we were able to bring in resources for that. Finally, planting in-ground and steering away from raised beds would benefit school gardens, so that when a champion leaves the likelihood of abandoned raised beds is decreased.