How can a school garden help students learn? Studies have shown that when children participate in garden-enhanced nutrition education their consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables increased significantly, sometimes twofold. Since its groundbreaking more than ten years ago, the fourth grade teachers had cultivated a 6-square-foot plot which has grown now to 5,000 square feet of several plots, a makeshift greenhouse, a mini toolshed, and a grape arbor. At each harvest, students have devoured what Garden Coordinator Peggy Rendler affectionately calls, “Nature’s Candy.”
• Proposed Garden Classes
Research has linked healthier eating habits and better learning to gardening. The role of schools in encouraging students to be healthy is an important one. As part of the Teaching the Mind, Feeding the Soul Initiative, Saint Victor School will construct an outdoor classroom to maximize the garden’s capacity to gather and seat entire classes. Once it is fully constructed Mrs. Rendler will be able to expand her elective program to include weekly gardening instruction in the outdoor classroom for 177 students in grades Pre-K to 5. Her curriculum will include garden-based science and technology with lessons such as composting with worms and lunch waste, using solar energy, and using math concepts like measurement, graphing, and data analysis. Students will gain hands-on gardening experience and first-hand exposure to biodiversity and ecological interdependence.
The school community will also build a labyrinth in the garden. Teachers plan to use the garden and labyrinth for journaling, spiritual exercises, retreats, and group counseling. The child-centered garden will provide opportunities for exploring nature and learning about peace and stewardship.
• Community Outreach
The school will help address the food insecurity in the greater San Jose community. The harvests yield more than three hundred pounds of organic produce each year. With the garden program expansion, the garden coordinator hopes to send larger donations to the Sacred Heart Food Pantry and the Second Harvest Food Bank.
• Community Support
Saint Victor School’s bountiful garden has the potential to grow. Financial and hands-on support from the school community, as well as sponsorships secured from neighborhood landscaping and garden supply vendors, will sustain the school garden long-term. Recently, the Whole Kids Foundation awarded Saint Victor School a grant. Then at their auction gala, Saint Victor parents surpassed the grant in the Fund-a-Need Appeal. With coordination and continued support for the garden of learning, Saint Victor School nurtures healthy, respectful stewards of the earth.
For more information regarding the garden, visit www.stvictorschool.org.