By Julie Bawden-Davis
Ask Roxanne Maietta Weinberg what she likes about her school’s garden, and the 5th grader’s emphatic response is: “Everything.”
“We go outside and learn about plants and their lifecycle, and I love getting dirty when we weed and clean out the pathways,” says the student at Tustin Memorial Academy Elementary School (TMA) in Tustin, Calif. of the school’s garden that involves all 700 students. “We compost and don’t use pesticides, and it’s so fascinating to me when the plants we grew make delicious and healthy vegetables we can eat.”
Growing gardeners who understand good nutrition and the importance of being responsible stewards to the environment was the goal of the TMA garden’s creators, including Roxanne’s mother and garden co-chair, Marci Maietta Weinberg.
”My hope was for the students to learn that what they choose to put in their mouths has a profound effect on the health of themselves and our world,” says Weinberg. The goal of the TMA garden program, which features regular participation by every child in the school, is to reinforce lessons taught in class. Since the TMA garden broke ground in 2008, science and math scores at the school have steadily risen.
School gardens are so effective at enhancing education, because they are outdoor, hands-on learning labs, says Mark Hay, founder and director of Coast Live Oak School based in Orange County, California. He instructs the 150 parents involved in the TMA program on teaching students worm composting.
“Gardening is a learning laboratory, just like computer lab,” says Hay. “By physically touching the plants and participating in activities such as maintaining worm bins, lessons in science and math come to life.”
Tara Fisher-Muñoz and Dianna Gielstra are co-chairs of the Green Team PTA, Wells Branch Elementary, in North Austin, Texas, which features an active school garden. Their goals echo TMA’s.
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