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They learn at ground level.

They learn at ground level

"It's so much fun, it doesn't seem like schoolwork.' That's how one student evaluated his learn-by-doing garden project --one of three highly successful ones that were undertaken in northern California elementary schools.

While the plots range in size from a small courtyard to about 14 acres, the idea is the same: to involve children in growing and harvesting food and flowers as part of the school curriculum. Early October in mild-winter areas is a good time for schools or community groups to consider trying something similar.

Fresno: plants, animals in school

Once part of the playground, the environmental center at Fresno's Turner Elementary School was created in 1981. It includes a greenhouse, a lathhouse, a solar-energy project, a weather station, and several garden areas. Each class has its own 15- by 18-foot plot for seasonal vegetables. Another garden shared by all the children is used for growing produce that is sold to a grocery store; the proceeds are used to maintain or replace tools and supplies.

Small animals (rabbits, ducks, and pigeons) are residents in the environmental center. Cows, horses, and other large animals, used by the children during learning sessions in animal husbandry, are lent to the school for short periods by parents or nearby ranchers.

Because of budget cutbacks, the outdoor classroom has received no money from the school district except to pay for the teaching staff, utilities, and a fence. Principal Len Ross advises other schools on a shoestring budget: "Have a plan, start on a small scale, and tap your friends first.'

Davenport: landscape as curriculum

A landscaping project begun five years ago at the Pacific School in Davenport is now another school-garden success story, but with a twist of its own.

Here, children worked with principal Joy Monahan and school gardener Roger Withrow to design a landscape plan for a previously barren courtyard. The children first studied which plants would grow best in the windy, coastal climate of the town near Santa Cruz.

Planted with bulbs, daisies, poppies, snapdragons, and other plants, the garden is part of science class: students learn which flowers attract insects and birds. Flowers are sketched and identified in art classes. A bonus: each day, the classrooms are adorned with fresh-cut flowers.

A Mountain View garden for young, old

In April 1984, volunteers at Mountain View's Senior Center invited students from nearby Mariano Castro School to share space--and effort--at their community garden. Children from two thirdgrade classes responded and joined in.

Because most students at this school are apartment dwellers, the joint program was their first exposure to gardening, says coordinator Molly Brown. Senior Nick Baca prepared the soil for the five plots, but the children maintain the gardens-- with some help from teachers, aides, and parents. Along the way, the children have picked up a lot of information about science, nutrition, and the food chain.

Shared gardening has had other, purely social benefits as students and seniors, working side by side, get to know each other better.

Photo: Fresh milk doesn't come from a carton, as this student learns in Fresno's outdoor classroom

Photo: Farm-like setting at Turner school promotes study of plants and animals

Photo: Marguerites from Davenport school garden will be pressed, then used as bookmarks

Photo: Two generations reap harvest at Mountain View Senior Center
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:elementary school's garden project
Publication:Sunset
Date:Oct 1, 1984
Words:553
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