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Like many children, transitional kindergartener Jamisen Prince is not a huge fan of vegetables, but that is changing thanks to his involvement in tending the garden at his school, Rosewood Avenue Elementary.
He is certainly not alone, as the school’s revamped garden is giving many students a new appreciation for plant life. Throughout this school year, the children at Rosewood have gotten their hands dirty as they’ve learned what it takes to grow food.
The effort, spearheaded by a group of 12 to 14 parents, now has even more momentum. Raw Inspiration, which operates the Melrose Place Farmers Market and 18 other farmers markets, donated $2,500 to the garden project.
“They believe in us, they love the garden [and] they want to work with us so that we can do even more gardening and plant even more vegetables,” Rosewood’s Green Team parent leader, Ellia Thompson, told the students during the announcement last Friday.
Thompson, Jamisen’s mother, said the mission to revamp the garden started before the beginning of the school year, when she and Principal Linda Crowder discussed ways to make the school “greener.” An avid gardener and land-use attorney, Thompson was happy to help.
At the time, the garden was underutilized, covered in debris and its sprinkler system was broken. The LAUSD fixed the sprinkler system, and the parent group began removing the leaves and sticks in the garden every Wednesday.
“We just started building it little by little,” Thompson said, adding that only two classes were using two of the beds at the time. Now, Rosewood has nine beds that are tended by the majority of students at the school.
Students who do not tend to the vegetables help in other ways, like creating decorations. Last Friday, Rosewood unveiled a new sign for the space that was decorated by students in Raphaela Hodges’ fifth-grade class. Hodges said the students worked on the sign for two months.
“All told, we’ve got just about every class in the school involved somehow,” Thompson said.
She said a master gardener visits the school every Wednesday, visiting with students and teaching them about vegetation. More and more, the garden is becoming a part of the classroom curriculum, Thompson said.
“We’re really starting to create a real science curriculum,” she added. Thompson referenced a teacher who has milkweed caterpillars in her classroom, and said the school is looking to further that lesson by adding milkweed plants to the garden. “So it’s like a whole cycle of life science program going on in her classroom.”
Parents seem to appreciate the hands-on learning opportunities. Tondi and Ethan Greenberg, who have a third-grader at Rosewood, said the students are excited to participate and enjoy being outside.
“I think it’s really important for our kids to learn about sustaining and growing food,” Ethan Greenberg said.
Thompson said a portion of the grant may be used for a picnic bench and other outdoor furniture to make the garden a more interactive learning area. Additionally, some of the funding could go toward an outdoor learning garden in the school’s “kinder yard,” she said.
Eventually, Thompson would like to see the school begin to plant medicinal herbs, such as aloe vera and goldenseal, to show that plants can have a greater use than just food. The overall mission is to make the garden completely self-perpetuating, Thompson said.
Crowder said the school will continue to get more students involved and incorporate the garden into its science curriculum. She said the parent group has already secured approximately $5,000 in grants, and the school is hoping to obtain a $25,000 seeds grant from the district.
“Once that’s done and once we get it, I know we’re going to have an even more beautiful school than we have right now,” Crowder told students.
She said she was very grateful to Raw Inspiration for supporting the cause. Melissa Farwell, director of coordination and development for Raw Inspiration, said the garden falls in line with the organization’s mission.
Farwell said that this summer, Raw Inspiration would like to have the garden certified so that students could sell their vegetables at the market.
“So it’s kind of a full-circle thing, which is pretty cool,” she said. “It’ll be really neat. I’m really excited about that.”
Crowder also thanked representatives of LAUSD Board of Education vice president Steve Zimmer’s office for their support. Tammy Ramirez, Zimmer’s community and policy affairs deputy, said his office has been involved in the garden task force at the district-level.
“It’s something that he supports and advocates for,” Ramirez said.
As a whole, Rosewood has been working to promote health and wellness amongst its students. Prior to the announcement on Friday, students received recognition for the miles they have run in the school’s Got Game program.
At 7:30 a.m. every school day, students run for 30 minutes prior to the beginning of class. Holly Fowler, of Friends of Rosewood, helps administer the program. She said 121 students have participated and have logged 967 miles since April 1.
“They’re really, really excited about it,” she said. “They love it. They can’t wait to get on our little track and run.”
Fowler said the statistics will be used to apply for additional funding to support the school’s physical education program.
Crowder said exercise helps prepare the students for their school day. She said the program has helped reduce behavioral issues and increase students’ concentration. With the school’s no junk food policy, running program and learning garden, Rosewood is working toward improving its overall wellness, Crowder said.
“We’re going down a road of better health,” she added.
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