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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Sprouts in the garden

Green Acres Elementary School students learn science through gardening

by Debbie Bulger

Third graders harvest greens with teacher Claire Witherspoon. Photo: Trish Hildinger

Although some children might think their food comes in plastic wrap from the supermarket, students from appropriately-named Green Acres Elementary School in the Live Oak School District know that food comes from planting seeds and tilling the earth. These children do not wonder when apples and walnuts are in season; they know. Green Acres students not only grow lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, radishes, asparagus and other scrumptious veggies, they harvest and eat the fruits of their labors.

During the fun process, they learn science, nutrition and how to work together. Older children spend 30 minutes/ week and kindergarten cultivators somewhat less time participating in composting, planting, weeding, and the yummy part-eating. Typical lessons might include examining bugs under a magnifier, using nature as the subject for an art project, or learning how worms eat garbage and make compost.

Chloe, Teddy and Brian participate in the Lunchtime Gardening Program. Photo: Trish Hildinger

Each class has its own large garden bed on the multi-acre school gardening site. Nestled on the ground are smaller boxed beds that one to three students can share to grow whatever they want during the Lunchtime Gardening Program. In addition apple, pear, citrus and walnut trees offer their bounty.

The Green Acres gardening program is run by Claire Witherspoon who teaches science through gardening and Trish Hildinger, who works parttime with the school and community to secure funding and volunteers. Starter plants and seeds have been donated by Upstarts Organic Seedlings, The Garden Company in Santa Cruz, and Bay West Nursery in Live Oak.

Children in Mrs. Turpen’s third grade wash salad greens in preparation for eating. Photo: Trish Hildinger

The garden is completely organic and, combined with the school nature area, has won a Certificate of Achievement from the National Wildlife Federation Schoolyard Habitats. In 1978, Green Acres was the site of the original Life Lab garden. This learning model was so successful that it spread to over 1,200 schools in the United States and even in some foreign countries. The Life Lab program is now a separate non-profit which provides no funding or support to individual schools.

The Green Acres Science Garden program is funded partly by the Live Oak School District and partly by grants and donations. To learn more or to donate time or materials, contact Trish Hildinger, 475-0111 x 235.


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