By Nancy Gutierrez
Strathmore Union Elementary School will receive a cash grant award of $500 to add on to its existing school garden.
The school was selected by the Tulare County Farm Bureau Education Committee after an application review process. In addition to the cash grant, the school will receive curriculum and resource materials, and will also have access to the Beyond the Farm program.
"My vision is to make [the garden] big enough for all teachers to use it," fifth grade teacher David Johnson said. "Our goal is to integrate all of the California content standards. You can literally do anything in the garden with language arts, science, math, social studies, anything. It's up to a teachers imagination. The garden is a great vehicle for that."
Johnson added that the garden is a perfect way to let students experience practical applications of the standards they learn in class.
"Kids won't remember a worksheet on multiplication," he said. "But they will remember the year we planted carrots."
Johnson said the existing garden was started two years ago, but is too small for every class to use and is currently only used by fifth grade classes. But johnson hopes to create an area that is big enough for every class. In addition to helping students retain standards Johnson hopes that the knowledge they learn about growing vegetables will be taught to their family.
"We live in an ag based community. A lot of people who live in Strathmore have gardens. There are misconceptions on how to be successful with them," he said.
Johnson knows that he will probably need more than the $500 grant from the Farm Bureau. He is in the process of applying for a $1,500 grant and a greenhouse grant through the Julia Greenhouse grant for schools and communities.
"It would be great if we could get a greenhouse," he said. "We could grow house plants and have a plant sale that could finance our garden efforts."
For now Johnson and Strathmore Elementary will use the $500 grant to create more planting beds. Students are getting ready to plant their winter vegetables and simultaneously learn about science, math and even language arts.
The Tulare County Farm Bureau has helped fund 10 gardens at various schools throughout the county since 2001. Strathmore Union Elementary is one of the first schools to receive funding this year. Garden Program Coordinator Rebecca Anderson said the Farm Bureau provides grants to around five schools each year depending on available funds.
Beyond the Farm is a new component of the school garden grant that helps increase the availability of agriculture education. The program provides a mobile lab that brings teaching materials, supplies and equipment to schools with gardens. The lab was made possible through a unique partnership between College of the Sequoias, Tulare County Office of Education and the Tulare County Farm Bureau.