The School Gardens Program, a partnership between the Orfalea Foundation’s School Food Initiative and the Santa Barbara City College Center for Sustainability, has announced the next six schools to receive educational edible gardens during the 2012-13 school year: El Camino and Foothill schools in the Goleta Union School District; Olga Reed in the Orcutt School District; Los Olivos Elementary in the Los Olivos School District; Miguelito of the Lompoc Unified School District; and Oak Valley of BUED.
These six join the 29 schools already participating in the program, which employs a garden educator/manager (GEM) at each site to help schools build and maintain gardens. The GEM develops curriculum and facilitates teacher use of the garden for standards-based lessons.
The program is part of Orfalea’s larger School Food Initiative, which provides training for food service workers and kitchen infrastructure updates to improve the quality of food available in Santa Barbara County schools, as well as programs to improve food literacy among students, educators and parents.
“These gardens are set up so they can evolve for generation after generation of student and community learning, inspiration and engagement,” garden installation coordinator Ramsey Cronk said. “Over the past three years our team has honed the process through integrated student design, productive community workdays, and schoolwide ownership thus gaining a deeper understanding of essential garden program elements. We look forward to bringing our experience to the six schools slated for the 2012-13 school year.”
Los Olivos Superintendent Marsha Filbin expresses big plans for their school garden.
“Our classes will utilize the garden for science and agriculture experiments, but they will also use the garden to complement studies in other areas as well, such as art, literature, math and writing,” shes said. “We see this garden as potentially central to the campus culture. We are pushing for more healthy eating choices on campus as well as working to develop sustainable service learning projects at the school. A community garden offers a wonderful opportunity to assist us in realizing these goals.”
With the help of GEMs, teachers, and parent and community volunteers, the gardens serve as an outdoor classroom in which children reconnect with their food and learn about biological processes, community building and cooperation, all while meeting required state content standards.
“We are thrilled about having a garden at Olga Reed School,” Principal Joe Dana said. “Agriculture is very much a part of the Los Alamos lifestyle, as many of our parents work at the farms, ranches and vineyards of our area. We can’t wait to have the garden installed.”
Why School Gardens?
» Gardens are proven to be effective for promoting healthy lifestyles.
» In Santa Barbara County, approximately one-third of public school students are overweight or obese.
» Children participating in garden programs are motivated to consume more fruits and vegetables, can identify more vegetables, and often develop preferences for eating a variety of vegetables.
» Adults who eat sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables start doing so at a young age. Eating habits are established before age 15.
» Gardens are an ideal place to teach educational standards in an outdoor setting that provides relevance, multiple sense stimulation, and a break from the traditional four-walled classroom.
» The interactive nature of garden-based lessons engages students especially those who are non-traditional learners.
— Dean Zatkowsky is the communications manager for the Orfalea Foundation.