Community Garden Teaches Lessons For a Lifetime
By getting their hands a little dirty, Rose Lewis’ students at Etiwanda High School are learning some valuable lessons – about potential career opportunities, the future of the planet and even life itself. Now, with the help of a $5,000 grant, she’ll soon be able to turn a community garden program she started from scratch into a perennial project-based learning opportunity.
“This isn’t about books or a classroom, it’s about lifestyle and looking at the world in a different way,” said Lewis, an environmental science teacher who is in her second year at Etiwanda.
With seed money from Donors Choose – a crowdsourcing website that supports classroom needs – Lewis was able to buy materials for raised garden planters, which her students assembled and have maintained throughout the year. She applied for grant funding from Lowe’s Toolbox for Education program, and was informed this past month that she will receive $5,000 to expand her efforts.
Her goal is not only to have a larger garden for her students to learn about the benefits of gardens, but to start a farmer’s market that would provide their classmates access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Lewis’ parents – teachers and “proud naturalists” – instilled in her the values of respecting nature, lessons she is paying forward. She hopes her students will someday do the same, by teaching their families about gardening or even pursuing environmental science as a career.
Students do everything – from preparing the soil to planting and harvesting – along the way gaining a greater appreciation for the world around them. They also study environmental justice and how limited access to fresh foods in low-income neighborhoods can impact community health.
“They’re learning the importance of environmental stewardship and how they can have a tangible impact on their community – even the health and medical benefits that can be gained,” Lewis said.
Etiwanda Principal Don Jaramillo said the community gardens program is a great example of project-based learning, made possible by the vision and persistence of a teacher and the support of community partners.
“Efforts like this are preparing students for life, above and beyond what they can get in a normal classroom setting,” Jaramillo said.