The Saratoga Elementary School Garden began in 2008 with a small group of passionate teachers and administrators. An extensive plan was laid out – detailing not only the physical attributes of the garden (with phased improvements) but it’s purpose, dependencies and partnerships. They received a grant to get started with the essentials, laid out the irrigation and built 6 raised concrete beds. They installed a sink and shed and planned out the location for a greenhouse in the next phase. The garden was utilized for a couple of years and then fell to the wayside as interest waned, volunteers dropped off and teachers started in on the many educational shifts that have been taking place.
In August 2014, the Garden was mostly dormant – except for the 2nd grade pumpkins, one third grade class, and Earth Day. The vision that started the garden was lost.
So with a small but dedicated group of volunteers, we opened up the garden to the kids during their lunch recess on Mondays and Fridays every week. The Kids get 15 - 20 minutes after eating their lunch to come out and look for bugs, pull weeds, draw, read or just relax. Last year we got a lot done thanks to the hard work and dedication of many people!
With the help of several Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts our garden took a huge leap forward. Eagle Scout, Eoghan Walsh - created a beautiful whiteboard enclosure that includes a magnetic whiteboard and 2 cork boards. Eagle Scout, Thomas Hunt - created 3 redwood raised beds - as well as an experimental bed that students will be able to utilize for science fair experiments. Girl Scouts, Casey, Abigail, and Raiyah - built and decorated a Stevenson Screen - an enclosure to hold all of the manual weather equipment they donated - including a colorful wind sock. They also donated and planted 3 fruit trees. Various people donated their time and energy, as well as wine barrels, bird baths, a large piece of granite, our garden sign... and much more... Our garden is now planted with a plethora of vegetables and looks incredible! And at the end of last year we had several Project Cornerstone readers take advantage of the outdoor classroom space for their lessons.
We estimate that we have between 20 -50 kids in the garden at a time and they love it. It is a safe place for a lot of them where they can be themselves and do whatever each of their unique personalities dictate.We are looking forward to the further growth of our garden - and our kids - next year!
We all know the importance of getting the kids outside. There has been much research to show that: “Kids connect with nature, use their natural curiosity to make discoveries and solve problems, and get their developmental needs met in the garden. It is a way to help children become healthy, capable, and well balanced.” American Horticultural Society.
California Department of Education “A Garden in Every School” Vision
- By encouraging and supporting a garden in every school, we create opportunities for our children to discover fresh food, make healthier food choices, and become better nourished.
- Gardens offer dynamic, beautiful settings in which to integrate every discipline, including science, math, reading, environmental studies, nutrition and health. Such interdisciplinary approaches cultivate the talents and skills of all students while enriching the students’ capacities of observation and thinking.
- Young people can experience deeper understandings of natural systems and become better stewards of the Earth by designing, cultivating, and harvesting school gardens with their own hands.
- School garden projects nurture community spirit, common purpose, and cultural appreciation by building bridges among students, school staff, families, local businesses, and organizations.