Julian Elementary School
About our Farm to School program.....
In 2013 our district---Julian Union---received a USDA Farm to School Planning grant. During that year, we created a F2S team and F2S advisory board, expanded our school garden, created a full-day of experiential instructio for our elementary and junior high on National Food Day, began catering lunch from a local farm-to-table restaurant, instituted Harvest of the Month curriculum, and took fieldtrips throughout the year focused on our local food economy. We are a Live Well San Diego partner. Recently, we attended the California Farm to School conference, and for the 2015-2016 year we will be a Sage Garden Project grant fellow, working to further our edible education.
About our school garden program...
On a triangle-shaped wedge of land on the edge of Julian Elementary, a small miracle has been unfolding over the last six years: a beautiful school garden and multi-faceted outdoor classroom. Led by parents and supported by teachers, staff and multiple community members, the Julian Elementary Character is full of life and learning, with eight things growing in profusion.
The first thing we are growing is obvious: food. Students plant, tend and harvest fruits and vegetables throughout the school year, often with a focus on one crop per month as part of a Harvest of the Month program. Last February was kale, May was peas and September is tomatoes, and students learn about each food through art, literature, science and nutrition. A result of one of the many garden grants received by the school, an outdoor kitchen is fully equipped to cook food right on the spot. (Thank you Whole Foods!) Many gardening skills are grown along the way from good mulching techniques to appropriate amounts of water for different types of plant communities.
Thanks to various local artists who have created pieces for our garden, we also grow beauty. Don Madison made a massive table out of reclaimed cedar from Volcan Mountain that sits in the heart of the garden. Art Cole fashioned a monumental gate from local wood which graces one side of the garden; a James Hubbell masterpiece entrance of colorfully painted and fancifully sculpted iron sits on the other side. Each of these art pieces carry stories about Julian and our community, and we tell and grow stories with regularity. Many have said that our garden sparkles because of the multitude of whimsical touches (a reading teepee made of honeysuckle vines), meaningful local projects (a breast cancer ribbon garden planted with pink tulips) and bits of uniquely Julian history and culture (heirloom apple trees and hundreds of daffodils which we enter every year in the show at Town Hall).
When we say we grow citizens, we mean that we are teaching kids to be good environmental stewards for the 21st century. Daily we practice everything from school-wide lunch scrap composting to rainwater harvesting with a 3,000 gallon system, the largest of its kind on an elementary campus in San Diego County. The garden has also been designated a certified wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Foundation with our focus on providing wildlife such as birds and butterflies food, water, places to shelter and places to raise young. One special feature of the habitat bed is an artist-made solar water fountain.
True to the district’s school-wide focus, we also grow character. Our homegrown Garden Ambassadors is one on our flagship character programs. Fifth grade students apply and then are selected to become the official representatives of the garden. As such, they are trained to give tours, make announcements at assemblies, lead special projects and officiate at garden events. In the process, they learn responsibility, respect, trustworthiness and leadership.
Additionally, academics are also growing in the school garden. Each class, kindergarten through fifth grade, goes to the garden every other week with the school’s garden educator for a 30-minute lesson in nutrition, botany, science or language arts. A student might make a sketch, propagate a plant, decorate for a holiday, sing a song about natural history or write in his/her garden journals. Lessons are experiential and seasonal, and it’s fair to say that children look forward to garden time. (The little ones even squeal with delight.)
Finally ,we are growing community. Since its inception, the garden has benefitted from countless gifts of time and talents from many members of the backcountry, including the tireless service of a group of garden volunteers called the Garden Beneficials.