Garden School Foundation: The Roots of Education

The idea started because, as much as things were changing, they were actually staying the same. The 24th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles received funding to replace the playground asphalt with more playground asphalt. Parents, teachers, children, and community leaders had a different idea. What if, instead of filling more square feet with asphalt, the space […]

Garden School Foundation: The Roots of Education

The idea started because, as much as things were changing, they were actually staying the same.beans on clothes H The 24th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles received funding to replace the playground asphalt with more playground asphalt. Parents, teachers, children, and community leaders had a different idea. What if, instead of filling more square feet with asphalt, the space could be used as an innovative and interactive place for the whole community? This is how the concept of the Garden School Foundation (GSF) started. By turning the asphalt into ‘teachable space’, community members created an opportunity to engage young students, gather community support for the project, and provide educators the ability to think outside the box in terms of reaching students in the classroom.

Garden classrooms are being established in communities with food deserts or lack of access to fresh foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as a community with little or no access to healthy foods. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, food deserts negatively affect diet and food security. In order to reach some of the most vulnerable populations, many organizations are creating garden classrooms as a way to supplement the standard educational curriculum. According to the UC Davis Center for Nutrition in Schools, which provides a foundation of research and education in food and nutrition with the goal of empowering individuals to achieve superior health, the benefits of Garden-Based learning for children include:

  • Improved knowledge of nutrition, food choices, and consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • The integration of multiple subject areas
  • Enhancement of overall academic achievement
  • An understanding of agriculture and the environment
  • Improved life skills, self-esteem, social skills and behavior

Organizations like the Garden School Foundation are seeing success in their garden education. The Foundation has created a community of partners committed to the success of the students, the garden, and the future impact on their community, as well as others.  24th Street Elementary Second Grade Teacher Linda Slater states on the GSF website, “It is rare that the test garden is not being utilized by one teacher or another, and often by two teachers sharing the ample space, conducting lessons directly connected to their instructional goals across all academic areas.”

Likewise, third grade teacher Michelle Ereckson says, “My favorite lessons involve growing and preparing food. We choose vegetables to grow then make signs identifying them. Next, we plant vegetables, then tend and harvest them. This integrates math, reading, health and nature into one lesson.  Our favorite part is cooking. The students love it.”

Founded in 2005, the Garden School Foundation has impacted about 3,000 students. Its supporters include Nancy Goslee Power, a noted landscape architect, and Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles.  Additional support comes from individuals through fundraisers, grants from foundations, and in-kind donations from companies in the local community.

Julia Cotts, Executive Director of the Garden School Foundation says, “This is such a wonderful time to be doing garden-based education because people are really starting to take gardens seriously as a powerful agent of change in under-served communities. We’re seeing our program expand five-fold just this year, and the number of children whom we’ll be able to reach as a result fills me with such hope. We have the most incredible opportunities for growing and using these outdoor garden laboratories here in Los Angeles, I think the time has finally come when we’ll be able to get kids learning outside, through firsthand experiences, every day of the year!”

IMG_0777Now that the program has roots, the Garden School Foundation is looking to expand its school gardens and curriculum to provide programing to other schools. The Garden School Foundation has already launched an interdisciplinary standards-based curriculum in collaboration with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) that has allowed outdoor classrooms and gardens to have an impact not only on schools but the greater community, as well. This curriculum will be made available nationwide in the fall of 2013. As the concept of gardens in classrooms expands, the Garden School Foundation seeks to bring this model to other schools in the district. This fall, GSF will add four additional schools in the LAUSD to its program.

The Jolly Llama is one of many organizations that partner with the Garden School Foundation to provide time and resources to ensure the success of this important program, and a portion of each purchase of Jolly Llama all natural, whole fruit sorbet pops benefits this worthy organization.

Photos courtesy of the Garden School Foundation.

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