Golden Chameleon Garden
We are the Golden Chameleon Garden, a name created and chosen by the students of Central Park Elementary School. We are new and growing community. Central Park Elementary welcomed students for the first time in August 2016. Central Park Elementary is a public K-5, neighborhood school in the Santa Clara Unified School District.
Central Park Elementary’s primary purpose and goal is to nurture and develop the whole child: mind, body, and heart. This is the vision we want to carry over to our garden program. When we envision our school garden we see it as a wonderful learning resource. Three concepts that drive Central Park Elementary’s vision are emotions, motivation, and interdisciplinary teaching and learning. Through the garden our aim is to connect children with the Earth and our surrounding community, while integrating project-based learning and STEAM concepts into a real world application. Part of our vision for the Golden Chameleon Garden is to create a multi-sensory interdisciplinary learning experience that fosters the life-long skills of healthy eating and cooking.
Have you ever seen a small child absorbed by a novel experience? Do you notice how her facial expressions change from curiosity to confusion and back to curiosity? How this curiosity spurs her to explore the unknown item some more? Though our program is in the process of being developed, this is the same fascination and curiosity we hope to invoke amongst our students, teachers, and volunteers. Through these positive experiences our students’ learning will be enriched in meaningful ways. It is our aim through our school garden to create a multi-sensory learning outdoor experience. We want our participants’ senses to be fully engaged. Our current lessons are adapted from a school in the San Jose School District, Hacienda Environmental Science Magnet School. These lessons are based off Next Generation Science Standards and are engaging through their multi-sensory and interdisciplinary approach. The garden becomes a hands-on outdoor classroom where students can apply lessons they have learned in an indoor classroom setting to another environment. Thus giving them the opportunity to practice making real world connections with concepts they have learned in the classroom.
Daniel Pink, author of Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, talks about three characteristics of motivation, one of those characteristics being purpose. The Golden Chameleon Garden will inspire students to have a higher purpose, knowing that what they do matters and makes a difference in life. In our school, we have established The Green Team. The Green Team, is a sub group of student leadership. Our Green Team is starting out by learning how to compost by collecting leftover food scraps from school lunches to be used in our school garden. Through their efforts, our school garden will get the nourishing compost it needs to grow nutrient dense produce. At Central Park Elementary we foster social-emotional growth. One way we do this is by teaching children various concrete ways they can be kind to others. As our program and gardening skills develop, we want to partner with a local family shelter to help provide fresh organic produce. We hope that by partnering with a local shelter, students will have another purpose for growing food, to help others in need. By growing an organic garden, we hope to instill the value of caring for our environment, our home. Through garden lessons we can impart how our world is interconnected. Our actions, even those that seem inconsequential can have a significant impact. We can start as small as the microorganisms that help our garden thrive and expand out to how our daily habits impact the world around us. Tending a garden with purpose will inspire our students that their small actions can make a difference.
As the world around us shifts away from agriculture, vital knowledge of knowing how to grow our food is being lost. All the same we are losing the art of cooking as take-out becomes more feasible for busy schedules and affordable for those on restricted incomes. Along with teaching STEAM concepts while growing a garden, we are also teaching our students how to grow food and nourish their bodies, important life skills. As children menus, become less colorful, less nutrient dense, a school garden is a wonderful way to encourage students to try vegetables. Through this multi-sensory experience children will develop a liking towards some vegetables. Being a STEAM school, we want to encourage our students to create and design. One way we can do this with the garden is to have recipe design challenges where children learn how to cook with the produce harvested. In this process we are fostering ingenuity and creativity all while teaching important life skills.
In our school garden we envision children learning through exploring, playing, and making connections in an investigative manner. As a school who’s vision is to nurture the whole child, a school garden is a wonderful opportunity and resource to plant seeds of growth literally and metaphorically. We hope to establish a school garden that continues nourish minds and bodies for many years to come.