The last time I posted I wrote about the Santree Fest at Cajon Park School, and I mentioned “The Garden.” This time I want to talk a bit about The Garden – its history and current uses.
The Garden has been around since at least 1991, and is a learning, living garden. The district actually set up a program that required every school to have a garden of some type, but Cajon Park is one of the few schools that still has one going. The Garden was originally setup using a $15,000 grant, and has been used by at least 20 different teachers over the years. Second grade teacher Darrel Eastis is the faculty coordinator for The Garden, but the real work of keeping it going is done by three amazing volunteers – Karen McShane, Judy Crall, and Liz Schmitt. Karen has been helping in The Garden since 2001, Judy since 2003, and Liz since early last year.
Under the watchful eyes of these three ladies, students work in the garden watering, weeding, and harvesting the vegetables and herbs. The garden is all organic, which has the double benefit of avoiding harmful pesticides and teaching the children about good gardening practices. One of the favorite activities, besides watering, is checking out the worm garden – this is the source of the nutrients used to fertilize the garden patches. They also like to check out the worm experiment – four boxes of soil and paper full of worms, each group provided with a different food. (I’m not sure, but I think the ones fed coffee and tea move the fastest.)
I’m not sure how many teachers make use of the garden these days, but I do know that several of the lower grade teachers have “garden days” where they send half the class at a time to work in their class plot. Other times teachers will have breakfast in the garden for the students, and at least one teacher, first grade teacher Penny Gordon, has a weekly “Lunch with the Teacher” for select students. Besides the teachers and students, The Garden has it’s local visitors such as skunks, opossums, raccoons, snakes, and squirrels. The most unusual group, though, was a hive of bees that had set up shop underneath the workshed for three years. That was one set of visitors that finally had to be evicted – for obvious reasons.
There are quite a few projects to come in The Garden. Recently the school received a $500 grant from Wal-Mart and another $5,000 grant from the state to help make the garden ADA compliant. A walkway was poured to allow for wheelchair access, and Lowe’s donated the materials for a raised planter bed, which will be accessible to disabled students. In addition they will be putting up shade in some areas and removing a nearby pine tree that blocks the sun. The Garden will be teaching students for many years to come.