Wow. What can I say? Where once our school seemed chaotic and depressed now there is hope for a brighter future. I've been at 24th Street School since 1998: a place mired in blame, resignation and re-action. Facilities broken, locked and dark. Teaching staff a wild stew of apathy and energy and a virtual mirror into the diversity of the nation itself. Black, brown, yellow, white, old, young, all the colors of the rainbow.
A few years after I started seeing the gradual and persistant signs of change. New principal, new reading programs, and new interest from the community. Into this heady mix came the Garden Project, an attempt to set a new standard for LAUSD that combines a 21st century attitude toward learning environments with rigorous and comprehensive academic standards. A project that will transform the prison-like setting with its grim cement, fences, and grime, into a green space, with gardens, trees, and beautiful play areas. An environment that nurtures mind, body, and spirit.
It has already begun.
The central circular vegetable and flower garden has become a source of pride and knowledge for the students; a beacon of play, beauty, and learning that is tended and cared for by the students themselves.
The main rear playground is being ripped up and redesigned and we have every confidence that as the new main garden emerges, the the spirits of the teaching staff, administration, parents and children will rise. When pride and enthusiasm rise, so also do expectations and achievement.
As a teacher, born and raised on an 80-acre Sonoma County farm, I know the positive nurturing benefits of nature on the young and have seen its affects already on our students.
- Christopher Lee Paulsen, 3rd grade teacher
My 1st grade class is looking forward to working with Nick and Sergio in the garden every Friday. We are learning about different plants, what they need to grow, and how to take care of them.
It goes hand in hand with our first grade science curriculum as well as a lot of the stories in our Open Court Reading Program.
Currently we are growing zucchini, basil, and jalapenos. Personally, I think the garden is the best thing that has happened to our school.
I am a first grade teacher at 24th Street School. My students love the garden and eagerly await each new stage in it. We go to the garden to learn, to draw, to read, and to write. We also go to the garden to discuss. We often have our Community Circle meetings there.
The garden is our science workshop, and it provides a beautiful backdrop for our Open Court Reading units.
As I look at our courtyard test garden, an eighth of an acre circle shaded by willows, it's hard to believe that three years ago, we had only 5 containers at the back of a playground. There are now large beds for each grade level, and we work from the earth, not potting soil. It is rare that the test garden is not being utilized by one teacher or another, and often, by two teachers sharing the ample space, conducting lessons directly connected to their instructional goals across all academic areas. This was not the case with the container garden. The soil was quickly exhausted. In our case, location was also a problem. The containers were at the back of the asphalt yard, next to a Freeway. Try as I might, I couldn't get more than two teachers to join me in using the old container garden for project-based learning. Since the creation of a real garden, which amounts to a total environment as opposed to a specimen box, the numbers of teachers who are feeling comfortable using the garden for lessons is growing by leaps and bounds. Even better, we teachers are beginning to collaborate more to share ideas."
-Linda Slater, 2nd grade teacher.
The garden offers a setting for cross-curricular lessons and the result is a more engaged and motivated classs. My favorite lessons involve growing and preparing food. We choose vegetables to grow then make signs identifying them. Next, we plant vegetables, tend to them, and harvest them. This integrates math, reading, health, and nature into one lesson. Our favorite part is cooking. The students love it.
-Michelle Ereckson, 3rd grade teacher
The 24th Street School garden program has made a huge impact on our school, community, and on me as a professional. It has opened doors to curriculum enhancement and creativity that have slowly been closing due to district mandates and state required programs. It has given the hope back that our students truly can get an amazing education in the midst of an environment that is inspiring for us all.
-Tedd Wakeman, 4th and 5th grade teacher
Walking, sitting, smelling and just being in the garden always is an invigorating part of our day now. The garden has become an integral part of my curriculum; the planting adventures motivate not only more lessons in science and healthy eating, but in language arts, both oral and written. It is a wonderful enhancement of our daily learning envrironment.
-Sheri Barber, kindergarten teacher
I am very excited to know that my students will be able to participate in nutritional education through hands on experiences. I cook with fresh ingredients at home and I enjoy sharing with children the importance of healthy foods. The ability to go outdoors during the school day using all five senses to observe and record observations back in the classroom will enrich learning about the scientific process. For many of our children the world is harsh and unforgiving. I see this garden as a refuge not only for the students but for the teachers who often need a slice of serenity and beauty during the teaching day. I am moved by the dedication I have witnessed in the design and development of this greened campus. Its a journey that I have faith will lead us to a higher consciousness as we look to the future of educating children.
-Marie Bellande, kindergarten teacher
I am from Fairbanks, Alaska, and know from my upbringing and always having a garden at home and being surrounded by plants and wilderness what an enriching experience it is. My first graders are overjoyed about the Garden Project at our school. They love checking on the progress of the fruit, vegetables, and flowers on a daily basis. They do not let a day go by without strolling through the garden, smelling the flowers, finding insects, digging in the dirt for worms and chasing bees. This project is the best thing that has happened at 24th Street School in the 10 years I have taught here.
-1st grade teacher Lucia LaFleur
The value of the project, though undoubtedly immense, cannot be measured because the positive effect it will have on the lives of the many children who will benefit from it cannot be measured. Aside from the physical, mental and emotional health benefits, students will experience firsthand and on a regular basis, a school environment heretofore unavailable and far superior to what currently exists on their campus and presumably superior to that of any such educational institution in the area and perhaps in the state. Furthermore, the garden project will create a manifold increase for opportunities for learning, most notably with regard to Science and especially the life sciences.
-William Faulk, Special Education teacher
Hello! I work at 24th Street School teaching 1st grade. I love the garden we have now. My students love playing, resting, and spending time there. It is such a blessing to have the garden so students can enjoy the beauty of nature. Thank you so much for providing a beautiful garden to us.
I am a first grade teacher whose class has planted radishes and sunflowers in our beautiful school garden. The kids love getting their hands in the dirt, and I love watching them.