Alissa Pearce | Special to the Sun
There seems to be a great alignment of forces behind school gardens in Sonoma lately. I have personally observed this shift over the past four years as I started working in the school garden program at Dunbar Elementary School, and as I became involved last year with the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation and their work in bringing gardens to all schools in the Sonoma Valley Unified School District. The recent outpouring of support for the School Garden Project from local nonprofits, businesses, community members, and the school district is truly appreciated by those of us working in the school gardens. This generosity, dovetailed with the increased media attention given to school gardens everywhere has created a welcome swell of enthusiasm beneath the project. So much progress is being made, and there is still so much to be accomplished.
This is really exciting stuff for someone like me. I am the garden coordinator at Dunbar School. What began as a challenge to myself to teach kids how to grow fresh food became something much more. After just a few weeks of working with students and their teachers, I began to realize what a useful tool the garden was in reinforcing lessons they were getting in their classrooms. We were counting seeds as we planted them by twos and threes, and figuring out how much money we could make if we sold one flat of plants at the farmer’s market. Multiplication problems started popping up everywhere. Some days we would be more creative, “coloring” self-portraits with pigments from plants in the garden. Kindergarteners learned what a hypothesis was when they were asked if they thought we could sprout a bag of soup beans from the grocery store. As the kids were learning, so was I. Along with the teaching opportunities that were coming up I started realizing how much time, money, physical labor, and community support goes into maintaining a school garden. Couple with that the hours of teaching and prep time that went into creating relevant, engaging garden lessons for the kids and suddenly, I had a full time job.
Read more in next week’s Sun on Alissa’s adventures in the Dunbar Garden and beyond…
Alissa Pearce is the garden coordinator for Dunbar Elementary School and the curriculum coordinator for the School Garden Project, a program of the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation.