My journey in the McKinley garden over the past two years has been a whirlwind of first time experiences that I will carry with me probably forever. I had never coordinated a garden program when I started my position back in August 2012; I had also never taught in an elementary school setting, organized and coordinated events, or built a community around a garden. Nevertheless, I learned how to do all of those things and so much more. During my time at McKinley, the school garden has gone from being completely reliant on Veggielution for leadership and support, to being one year away from sustaining the garden program on its own.
As the McKinley School Garden and Veggielution both continue to evolve, the time has come for Veggielution to transition out of a direct, hands-on role and into a supportive, advisory role with an emphasis on curriculum development. Since McKinley isn’t quite ready to support the garden on its own, Garden to Table, a nonprofit organization conveniently located onsite at the school, will be providing one more year of support.
Garden to Table will be taking the lead with the garden lessons, garden club, and garden maintenance, as well as further developing the sustainability plan of the garden in collaboration with Veggielution, CommUniversity, the California Native Garden Foundation, and San Jose State University. By the end of the 2014-2015 school year, the McKinley garden will be ready to run sustainably on its own with minimal support from local nonprofit agencies.
Over the past five years, Veggielution has been in partnership with McKinley Elementary School to create the school garden program. Planning for the garden began in 2008, and the first AmeriCorps member to facilitate garden lessons and manage the garden began in 2011. Over the span of those years garden beds were built, standard based curriculum was developed, and over 240 students have been engaged in the garden each year.
In a day and age where school garden “graveyards” seem to pop up left and right, it is extremely promising to see the school and community developing a sustainable plan for the garden program together. In the school’s first annual walk-a-thon fundraiser, the community came together to raise $4,000 for the garden program! I am so proud of the McKinley community for coming together to make the sustainability of the garden a priority.
The McKinley garden has not only been a special place for students, but it has also been a special place to learn about teaching. As I also transition out of my AmeriCorps role at McKinley, I will be moving on towards my goal of becoming a teacher. I would like to thank the McKinley community, the McKinley garden, and Veggielution for giving me the special opportunity to learn in the garden with the students, teachers, and parents.