The garden hasn't been the only thing growing at Aptitud Community Charter.
Over the past year, the school has seen some dramatic changes. The faculty petition to become a dependent charter school was approved, and Goss Elementary School metamorphosed into Aptitud Community Charter Academy at Goss. With partnerships like Veggielution already established, the school adopted "healthy, active, and college-bound" as the new motto. "We believe that every child deserves to learn in an active and healthy environment," says principal Natasha Wexler. "Our community garden is a proud center point of the healthy culture valued by our parents, students, and staff."
Indeed, what started as an after-school garden-club has evolved into an integrated group of students, parents, and teachers that meets every Wednesday to maintain the garden and make decisions together. For example, last week two teachers, nine students, and two AmeriCorps members weeded native plants, seeded wildflowers, and added to the compost pile. Next week, the topic of discussion will be the upcoming Garden Party, an open workday with potluck, hosted by the School Garden Team.
The students say less talking, more gardening! "It's the only time I can get dirty," says one 4th grade girl, "and I like nature and flowers." One 4th grade boy says, "Garden club is like garden lessons only we get to garden all year long!"
The garden lesson program, piloted last year, still involves standards-based hands-on activities in the classroom and garden. This year, there has been more emphasis on nutrition, experiences with nature, taste tests, and garden scavenger hunts.
"As a teacher, I am impressed with the rich curriculum and hands-on lessons," says 3rd grade teacher, Kelsey Kane, whose class has just finished their round of lessons, and will be embarking on the capstone field trip to Veggielution next week. "From seed dissection and planting cover crops, to carrot tastings and building compost, Garden Class extends the classroom outdoors and brings new curriculum and experiences to kids… all while having fun!"
With a grant from KaBOOM!, the school and Veggielution community came together to build a new play structure and some much-needed features in the garden: shade structures, compost bins, an outdoor chalkboard and native plants. Future projects include finishing irrigation for beds before summer, caring for the native plants and fruit trees, and harvesting more food--together.
Recently Veggielution and the school began talking logistics with Nutrition Services at the district to incorporate produce from the garden in the cafeteria--making the dream of parents and teachers a reality.
"Our goal is to continue expanding the garden so that one day enough produce is being grown that we can serve our garden food to our students at school meal times," says principal Wexler.