In the past two months, the Nugget Markets and Davis Farm to School and Yolo Farm to Fork have been awarding schools with ‘stellar garden programs’ across Yolo County. These organizations have been working to provide everything from workshops, grants for gardens in schools and supplies to supplement school-based garden learning.
The Nugget Markets is a family-owned upscale supermarket chain operating within the greater Sacramento metropolitan area headquartered in Woodland, Calif. Davis Farm to School and Yolo Farm to Fork are both non-profit organizations aiming to create an educational and cultural environment in local schools that connect food choices with personal health, community, farms and the land.
The schools, which received the awards in late April, were Holmes Junior High, Davis School for Independent Study and King High School in Davis, and Plainfield Elementary and Dingle Elementary in Woodland.
The criteria for winning were that of demonstrating effective, innovative and creative educational experiences through the school garden program. The schools chosen were able to provide several practical learning activities involving many subjects and classes in order to paint a unique and clear vision for the garden’s future and plans for sustainability for local students.
Dorothy Peterson, a representative from the Davis School of Independent Study (DSIS), believes that children have different ways of learning.
“DSIS affords their students to approach learning that best meets their needs at this stage in their lives. DSIS has created a way for the garden program to be a part of their educational experience regardless of what is being studied,” Peterson said.
Peterson adds that she believes all knowledge comes from books or the web and that hands-on experience is the best way to integrate a young mind without boundaries. She hopes the gardens will influence students to further appreciate California’s local and seasonal agriculture.
“Gardens in schools can not only assist with expanding the curriculum, but can provide a vehicle to see how things are grown within their own environment on the school grounds. I’ve discovered over the years in working with students in the garden, if they grow it, they will at least taste it. Eating and sharing a meal is a social and educational experience,” Peterson said.
King High School is a continuation school that specializes in credit recovery. It helps students who are at risk of dropping out but may want to graduate from high school. The school presented the garden as a club that incorporated cooking rather than a graded class.
“[The club] allowed the students to have an opportunity to participate as much as they were willing without the commitment of a class with grades. Also, we made sure that we used veggies from the garden or from the store that were farm fresh — one of the building blocks of Nugget Markets,” said Karey Spivey, a teacher at King High School.
Next year, King High School hopes to start the year with more organized curriculum starting with composting, harvesting and irrigation. They want to inspire students to move into careers involving farming and green energy. They are also working to include students in field trips that include farms, grocery stores, restaurants and recycling centers so students can see where vegetables start and eventually end up.
At Dingle Elementary, their garden is based on the “demonstration” model, where children may walk through and taste, smell, touch and look at the plants growing. The garden program is run by a fourth grade teacher and a community volunteer.
Each Monday, the school Garden Club meets for an hour of planting, watering, tasting, potting and composting. The garden provides a place for different methods of learning — hands-on practice in agricultural, scientific, writing and sensory development.
“At the Dingle Garden, students are consumers as well as farmers. The garden is a place where students who might have very little exposure to choosing fresh vegetables learn about what varieties of fresh produce they can grow and eat,” said Dingle Elementary School teacher, Jessica Friedman.
Friedman adds that the club members get the opportunity to plant several vegetables such as zucchini, lettuce, beets, chard, cabbage and watermelons that later in the year will be harvested and shared.
Across the board, leaders in these garden programs believe that many students do not know where and how their food ends up in their mouths. Because of this, they believe it is important that students learn how to garden at home no matter where they live and take that knowledge from school into their futures.
“I think the earlier that children learn about gardening and how to grow things they will take that knowledge and apply to their lifestyles — hopefully creating a healthier diet and outlook for themselves,” Spivey said.
ROHIT TIGGA can be reached at email@example.com.