Sundays are typically filled with brunches, family gatherings and preparation for the upcoming week. For some families, students and staff members of Aptitud Community Charter Academy and volunteers from Green Sports Alliance, 360 Architecture, the San Jose Earthquakes and the United States Green Apple Building Council Center for Green Schools July 20th was unlike any typical Sunday. They all came together under the leadership of Veggielution's very own Youth Education Leader Nina Vuoso for a workday to bring Aptitud's garden to its full potential. The day constructed of lots of shoveling, setting stones, wheel barreling mulch and other labor intensive activities for the same identifiable goal: to construct a garden that not only was a place of education, but a place of community for students, teachers, staff members, families and anyone willing to participate in the garden's maintenance.
Although everyone upheld this common goal, as individuals everyone has a unique connection to the garden. For principal Natasha Wexler, the garden represents a place where the school's values can be practiced daily. For her, an overall healthy student creates an overall healthy learner that in effect helps students in and outside of the classroom. With a greater garden, Aptitud will be able to feed its students fresh produce while simultaneously teaching students importance of science and nutrition. Likewise for teacher Sherrie Lane, the garden is a place to see her students grow like the various vegetables and plants in the garden all while bonding with one another in the already, supporting environment. As Ms. Lane describes it, “It is like a family here” and the garden only strengthens those familial relationship.
Amongst the many high-spirited volunteers was parent Kytty Naranjo. As a life long gardener, Kytty and her daughter are active in the maintenance of the garden that has turned into an activity that has strengthen their relationship. Kytty sees their involvement as a greater learning experience to connect with the earth and appreciate how food reaches plates for consumption. Like Kytty, mothers Brenda Hernandez and Vicky Montano participate in the garden with their children. Brenda and Vicky, the garden is a means to engage in their children's education and growth as individuals. It is the smiles and giggles of the children as they pick the cherry tomatoes and quickly brushing off the dirt to eating them that makes their efforts all the worthwhile.
While the garden touches the lives of those who have an association with the school, Stephanie Morris was brought in to the garden by a friend to help design garden. For Stephanie, the construction of the garden was both a place to share her expertise in landscaping and a space to learn from other schools, staff, parents and students what would make the garden most useful space. After all her efforts, the garden was designed with community in mind.
As the sun gleaned on everyone, it was hard to deny the amount of energy and sincerity that filled the garden on Sunday. Although the garden many not be complete yet, the essence of community is well constructed filling the entirety of the garden. With the addition of a natural plant garden soon to come in the fall, it is well on its way to becoming a place of expressing school values, creating unity, connecting with the earth, seeing youth flourish, sharing knowledge and most importantly, where people go to gather, learn and grow.