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Education Matters: Growing our Learning Garden

December 03, 2010|By Dan Kimber

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

My daughter Stephanie tells me about a program at Venice High School partially initiated by the acupuncture school she attended, Yo San University. It's called the Learning Garden and it has become one of the country's largest and most successful school gardens since it launched in March 2001.

I've visited a number of Glendale schools since retiring in June, and I have seen the beginnings of small gardens at several sites, even on the smallest campuses where space is at a premium. I believe this allocation will bear fruit in a number of ways, and while it isn't contained in any of the state curricular standards, I believe it should be.

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Our students spend a good part of their day hooked into a dazzling array of technology and are, like most of us, far removed from the food and products they consume. Wouldn't it be great if they could get out from behind their screens and witness firsthand something that is more awesome by far than even the most sophisticated computer? Planting a seed and nurturing the life that comes from it is something every child should experience.

Children are naturally curious and like to learn by doing. And they love to play in dirt. Working in a garden, a child can experience the satisfaction that comes from caring for something over time, while observing the cycle of life firsthand.

But back to the Learning Garden. It is a model example of how school gardens can transform the lives of students and teachers and the environment of their community. Today, the agricultural plots are filled with organic food grown by the high school students. Health-related classes such as tai chi, qigong and natural food cooking are offered on its large stone patio.

The garden has a large medicinal plant section for educational purposes, a pond with a water garden and waterfall and a California native plant and cacti garden. A community garden is tended by local volunteers, and numerous groups and organizations use and support the garden.

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