Tag Archives: Santee

“The Garden”

The Garden at Cajon Park School

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.The Garden Girls

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.)

Students Check Out a Scarecrow in The GardenI’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.
Liz Schmitt tends the worm experiment boxes

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Santree Fest 2008

Santree Fest 2008

Santree Fest 2008

Yes, you read that right – “Santree” – as in the Arbor Day Foundation’s “Tree City USA” program.  Santee is one of the nationally-recognized “Tree Cities” in the country, reflecting the city’s commitment to urban forestry programs.  If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of trees in the community, particularly in the city parks.  In fact, the parks are so full of trees (considering the need to balance open and recreation space with trees) that this year the Santree Fest was held at one of the local elementary schools.  Cajon Park School, located just a few blocks north of Santana High School and across the street from Woodglen Vista Park, was the site of this years “plant-in.”  Several dozen parent volunteers joined with The Honky Tonk Kingscommunity groups and local businesses to plant trees along the north and east sides of the school and in the newly landscape entry area.  Among the local businesses that provided worker and/or supplies were The Hartford and Best Buy.  The festivities included music by the Honky Tonk Kings; goodies from Coldstone, Hot Dog on a Stick, Smoothie King, Starbuck’s, and Souplantation; and displays from community groups and businesses.

img_1907.jpgThe weather could have been a little sunnier, but the cloud cover did make the work easier than full sun would have.  The festival was scheduled to begin at 10:00, but it looked as if much of the planting had gotten started before that.  By the time my daughter and I arrived around noon most of the planting on the north fence line was pretty much completed (not that I had planned to help with the planting – I’m a photographer, not an arborist).  It was obvious that everyone was having a good time – there was no griping or arguing that I could hear going on from the volunteers, the folks who had just come to watch or enjoy the booths were smiling – it was just an all-around good time.

Cajon Park School was a great location for the festival – and not just because it’s my daughter’s school.  They have a wonderful program there that gets the kids directly involved with growing things – The Garden.  That’s what it’s called, and that’s what it is.  On the west side of the upper campus is an area that has been set aside as a garden, with plots for most of the grades 1-6 classrooms.  They have a multitude of edibles there, from carrots and radishes to snap peas and broccoli to cabbages and chard.  The garden also has an herb area with thyme, oregano, parsley, and nasturtiums (edible flowers that have a peppery taste to them).  There is enough to write about that I will devote another blog just to The Garden.

Santee Teen Center BoothBack at the festival, there were quite a few community groups in attendance.  The Santee Teen Center had a booth that not only informed people about the center, but also had little craft activities that the teens helped younger children with.  CalFire was also there with Smokey Bear and a brush rig, and I had a nice chat with one of the firefighters from the squad.  My daughter really enjoyed talking to the volunteers from Mission Trails Park and checking out the skull models they had – a skunk, a raccoon, and a coyote.  I’m sure she will be bugging me to get over to the park again soon.  The Wildlife Rescue group was also there with a hand-raised crow that someone had been keeping as a pet until it got to be too much to handle.

Santee holds the Tree Fest every year, so if you missed this one keep your eyes open in 2009.  Maybe they will be planting at a school near you.
Mission Trails Regional Park Booth<Rockin’ to the Honkey Tonk Kings

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Welcome to Scouting Santee

Welcome to Scouting Santee – a blog about what’s happening in Santee, California.  The plan for this blog is to keep you up-to-date on the latest events, openings, and all else going on in this lovely city in eastern San Diego County.  We’ll start out with a little background on the area…

The community of Santee began it’s life in the late 1800s when George Cowles bought 4,000 acres in a valley area east of San Diego.  The town was first knows as “Cowleston,” and might have remained known by that name, except that Cowles died in 1887 and his widow married realtor and surveyor Milton Santee in 1890.  The next year Jennie Cowles Santee began operating the post office under the Santee name, and in 1893 the town offically changed its name to Santee.

The town grew very slowly, numbering only about 2,000 as recently as 1950.  Then a relative boom took place, raising the population to over 25,000 in 1970.  A Citizen’s Planning Committee was established in 1968 and the process of creating a Santee Community Plan began.  A final plan was approved in 1974, but the first attempt at incorporation was voted down in 1976.  A second attempt in December, 1980, was successful, and the City of Santee was born.

In the ensuing 27 years the city has made great strides.  It has developed a first-class center city retail area and is linked to San Diego by the Green Line of the San Diego Trolley.  As with any city, there have been growing pains, and traffic is a problem along the main routes of Mast Boulevard and Mission Gorge Road.  But ongoing work on a freeway connector should solve some of the congestion by 2010.

For more information on Santee, check out the city’s website, particularly the About Santee page.

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