Teachable Gardens Cultivate a Sustainable Future

By Cat West 

An appreciation of nature is a primary understanding for children. The bright golden sun and vivid blue skies are often the first images known to developing minds. When a love of nature is encouraged and understood at an early age, it’s easy to see why kids grow to love, preserve and appreciate nature. If a young child is able to take an outdoor class in gardening on a beautiful spring day, their enthusiasm for the beauty of nature is renewed and refreshed. This sets into motion a lifelong appreciation for growing plants and nurturing a garden. It’s only natural for kids to learn how to grow food from an edible garden and for that knowledge to improve their lives over time.

Interestingly, each grade level has an ever more advanced study available to them in the school system at Los Angeles Unified School District. At the Carlos Santana Arts Academy in North Hills, the program is just beginning with a second grade class of 100 students. For these few students, it will most likely be their very first encounter with home gardening.  The lessons are a brief overview of germination, composting and the fundamentals of how to set up and tend a small vegetable garden over 7 weeks time, but it is the seed of understanding that grows in in their minds that represents its true value. The lessons learned in this little program will continue to encourage a love of gardening in each student throughout his or her lifetime. They will become the tending hands and preservers of our gardens in the future.

That is the concept of The Teachable Garden Program, which starts it’s first garden this Spring that will be the first of many teachable gardens in California and beyond. The program is partially funded by a grant from Whole Kids Foundation  from WHOLE FOODS. Teaching the students that the smallest little patch of space can produce significant crops for the grower is an important part of this initiative.

Funding for these programs are always the hardest part of setting them up. Often the program grows from the space the school has for an activity and the program evolves to fill that space naturally. That is the case with Sylmar High School who has grown an entire agricultural program around the garden spaces available on the Sylmar high school campus.

It was natural for the director of Sylmar High AG department Steve List to get the high school students to help do the work. With all the able bodied teenagers searching for a class that would lift their spirits and get them outside in the beautiful gardens on campus, there was no shortage of interest in his courses in horticulture. That was the reason behind the grant from State Farm Insurance and CBS/KLCS-TV 58 to fund the PBS shows and the horticultural curriculum for another year. Mr. List reports that the kids love the program and often after graduating 12th grade, their love of gardening begins a positive trend in their lives encouraging their studies in organic farming and agricultural studies in college campuses all over the country.

But some students want to travel to organic farms and gardens around the world with programs like WWOOF that allows volunteers to work on farms as a way to gain college credits. WWOOF is an international network of organic farms, gardens and businesses where students can stay and receive food, accommodation and training in return for their help and participation. No experience is required, just a willingness to work hard and learn about farming. There are about 600 locations in Canada alone — plus 70 other countries around the world. On farms all over the world, students can travel and work on organic farms as volunteers and learn their methods while gaining wonderful experiences of travel and adventure.

The opportunities are everywhere when you begin to look around.  This Spring, look for garden projects in your neighborhood. Community gardens will be gearing up as soon as the last frost has passed. Green is sprouting in your neighborhood too, you just need to look around.


As a creative professional in Los Angeles, Cat West brings versatile skills to any topic. Whether freelancing as a writer or designing digital art from her studio, Cat provides excellent creative product with content driven artwork and photography. Cat contributes to several other online newspapers including Examiner and Ontopix. You can read more here: http://www.examiner.com/public-schools-in-los-angeles/cat-west

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