A common theme has been going around for the past couple of years, that sustainability and the environment, needs to be taken on by the younger generation. More and more people began to brainstorm about the common belief that environmental education needs to start at the elementary level. That children need to not only learn about the environment, but develop a passion and deep rooted care so that they can evolve into stewards for environmental sustainability. Over the past month, I have been fortunate enough to travel to different elementary schools that are doing just that; teaching kids about the environment in hopes that a sense of care will initiate and grow inside of them. I’d like to put the spotlight on two schools who, specifically, through the establishment of urban school garden programs, have begun this process of introducing the environment and sustainability into children’s lives.
At Rosa Parks Elementary School, the idea of the garden was birthed from the principle’s longing to have a space in which community and environmental education could blossom. Thus the community garden was developed. Currently there are two gardens that reside at the elementary school; the front garden which houses a chicken coop, crop beds such as cauliflower, rainbow chard, and kale, and the main garden which is home to additional crops, a large compost bin, and the awesome roomy shed.
Many helping hands go into the conditioning of the garden including parents, children, and even staff! When walking around the garden, our tour stopped in front of a number of beds that were referred to as the “staff section”. I was told that these beds were adopted by staff, in which they picked a crop of their choice and have vowed to help maintain and watch over the crop. This is something that is not seen at very many school community gardens, so it was truly unique and intriguing to run into.
Currently the gardens are maintained by Nora along with a series of volunteers. She is a passionate gardener who in addition to maintaining the gardens, runs a weekly garden class for the kids in which they learn about sustainability, garden principles/methods, chicken care, etc. The garden project also includes the kids learning about garden harvesting, which takes place through the once a month “Salad Day”, in which children harvest greens from both gardens and make salads that they then eat. This hands on process helps the children see directly where their food comes from, and creates in them, gardening and cooking skills.
The garden outreach program is one inspirational story of a partnership between children, parents, staff, and community members in which there is a common belief and understanding that environmental sustainability is one of the most important topics of education that children need to be learning and grasping as they go throughout their educational journey.
The community garden is always looking for passionate and helpful volunteers, so if interested pop on over to Rosa Park’s website page for more information!