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Eco-Friendly: FUSD Students Practice Environmental Stewardship
Posted 5/6/22

student with shovel in garden

Like so many things, Washington High School’s garden project stalled when the pandemic closed school campuses in March 2020. 

"This project started in 2019-2020 when Special Education and AVID joined forces to attempt to revamp the existing campus garden that had gone unattended,” said Dr. Lisa-Marie Burns, a teacher at Washington. “The two classes worked to paint rocks and create some aesthetics only to go into quarantine right as spring arrived.”

washington high school students in garden
Washington High School students with Dr. Lisa-Marie Burns in the Husky Garden.

As students returned to Washington this year, its Wellness Center began offering in-person services next to the garden, which remained closed and unusable. 

When Burns learned of a grant opportunity through the Alameda County Office of Education that could help bring the garden back to life and support student well-being, she applied and found ways to align the project with her commitment to providing students hands-on learning experiences.

"Part of AVID is service learning, and this seemed to fit,” said Burns, who coordinates multiple programs for Washington and FUSD, including AVID

In addition to AVID and Special Education, various student groups are contributing to the newly-named Husky Garden project, including the Green Project, Engineering and Interact. Students in the MultiMedia Art Academy are also designing and painting a mural on a garden wall. 

azevada's garden through a trellis with branches overhead
A view of Azevada Elementary's garden through a trellis. (photo courtesy of Frances Herup)

Approximately half of FUSD’s schools have gardens. Students are digging into these green spaces and learning to nurture plants and in some cases learning to grow food, and educators are connecting this work to instruction about climate literacy, solutions and action. 

Maloney Elementary garden with raised beds
Maloney Elementary's garden, where students are growing grapes, tomatoes, pumpkins, peppers, corn and sunflower seeds. (photo courtesy of Paola Betancourt)

In February 2022, FUSD’s Board of Education adopted “The Roosevelt Resolution,” a resolution championed by the Thornton Junior High School Energy & Sustainability Club, that outlines a commitment to transitioning to a zero-waste to landfill entity. The Resolution highlights the importance of educational opportunities that promote environmental stewardship as “essential to training up climate literate citizens.”

This builds upon Resolution No. 030-2021 brought forward on behalf of a group of FUSD high school students and adopted by the Board in May 2021, that declared FUSD’s commitment to educating students on climate change and climate solutions. The larger framework for building climate literacy is under development by a dedicated team formed by FUSD’s Curriculum and Instruction Department.

people tending plants in the Niles garden
Tending plants in Niles Elementary's garden. (photo courtesy of Niles Elementary)

In the meantime, students and staff are busy working the soil in their schools’ gardens. 

"Our district and Board of Education are setting intensive, long-term goals for ensuring our students are climate literate,” said Superintendent CJ Cammack. “I can think of no better way to ground students’ understanding of climate solutions than encouraging them to nurture growth and feel connected to life on our planet.”

Green Ventures Academy students in culinary garden at JFK
Green Ventures Academy students in the culinary garden at John F. Kennedy High School. (photo courtesy of Mari Moschetti)

John F. Kennedy High School’s Green Ventures Academy (GVA) was established in 2008 as a California Partnership Academy program. The farm-to-fork concept culinary academy focuses on sustainability, and participating students grow much of the produce used in the program at the site’s culinary garden.

lemons from kennedy garden
Lemons from Kennedy’s Green Ventures Academy garden. (photo courtesy of Mari Moschetti)

"We ended up with hundreds [of lemons] this year,” said Chef Mari Moschetti, a Culinary Arts teacher and the GVA Coordinator. “We made lemon bars, lemon sugar cookies, lemon cupcakes, lemon meringue pie, lemon chicken, creamy lemon pasta and lemonade. We also had plenty left over to donate.”

bed of edible plants in Azevada's garden
Azevada Elementary's garden has about a dozen beds, recent harvests include lettuce, cilantro, kale and edible marigolds. (photo courtesy of Frances Herup)

GVA is a partnership of hospitality, culinary arts, and business instruction, students in the program learn about gardening, hunger awareness and recycling. Students participate in environmental service learning projects, aligned with the program’s goals, which include providing students solutions for eco-friendly living.

Successful school gardens, like Kennedy’s, require dedication and constant attention. This can be a challenge for schools to maintain, particularly when lead staff leave the school, or during periods of closures ranging from summer breaks to pandemics. 

peas in the Walters garden
Peas growing in the Walters Middle School garden. (photo courtesy of Gina Anderson)

"The garden had been neglected for several years due to many factors,” said Gina Anderson, a Speech-Language Pathologist at Walters Middle School, who along with Samantha Briggs is a co-advisor for the Walters Garden Club. “We received a grant which helped motivate us to get things growing again. The students have been very helpful in the process of planning, planting, watering and harvesting. One thing we collectively don’t like—weeding!”

Some schools have brought in community support to help maintain their gardens. 

child planting a seedling in a raised bed
Planting a seedling in Blacow Elementary's butterfly garden. (photo courtesy of Megan Savage)

Blacow Elementary is reinvigorating its butterfly garden this year with the support of dedicated staff, community volunteers, and high school students earning service hours. 

Megan Savage, a transitional kindergarten teacher at Blacow who is among the leaders in this project, said that the support for this project has shown her “the definition of community.”

students holding climate action hand-drawn sign
Washington High School students are developing a documentary on the Husky Gardens grant-funded work, click here to view the trailer.

A dedicated group of Washington students is continuing work to get Husky Gardens ready for visitors. Removal of bamboo and hazardous plants, excavation of a pond, and adding tanbark to the open spaces is underway. 

The garden’s persimmon, fig and apple trees all produce fruit, and there are beds ready to cultivate more edible plants. 

"Should this be a success, we would like to combine forces with other FUSD garden projects to maybe create a twice a year FUSD farmers market event, or something similar,” said Burns.

A documentary on the Husky Gardens grant-funded work will premiere at a county-wide event on May 25 at the Chabot Space & Science Center. A trailer is available here, and the documentary will be posted to FUSD’s YouTube channel after its premier. 

More Eco-Friendly news is posted on our website, and more stories are coming with updates on the amazing work being done in our school community. 

 


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