Words from the Calabasas Elementary School Discovery Garden

If you want one year of prosperity, plant corn,

If you want 10 years of prosperity, plant trees,

If you want 100 years of  prosperity, educate people,

-Chinese Proverb

Well, we all should look forward to 111 years of prosperity because UCSC interns teaching at Calabasas Elementary School have done all three of those tasks. The corn was planted last spring in a bed with beans and squash, the three sisters crop, to demonstrate companion planting. The trees were planted around the perimeter of the garden in hope that future students will eventually enjoy lemons, guavas, and other delicious fruit.  The education of students involved with the After School Garden Program is an ongoing process which the internship hopes will continue for many years to come.

The Garden Program has gone through a transformation in the past year. In January 2010, four UCSC seniors adopted the garden as their senior project, teaching garden-based life science lessons to over a hundred students over the course of two quarters.  For lack of funding, the garden would not be maintained and students would not be served without the dedication of UCSC interns and sponsorship of the Sustainable Living Center. When Emily Fuentes joined the team of interns with their senior project in Spring of 2010 she had no idea of the journey she was embarking on. Initially, the 5-credit internship was to last one quarter, but with the approaching graduation of the senior interns, Emily realized her role as a continuing student. Her new role was to design the garden program for Fall of 2010, which required new interns, new curriculum, and new vision for the program. Thankfully, Vanessa Lang fell in love with the program and joined forces with Emily and together they worked diligently all summer long figuring out the inner workings of this new internship. The vision was to creatively teach standards based curriculum while training new UCSC interns as environmental educators.

Fall quarter 2010 was dedicated to grades 1, 2, and 3. The quarter was divided into two parts, four weeks each. For the first four weeks of the quarter Vanessa and Emily, as the lead interns, taught their curriculum to one set of grades 1, 2, and 3 while training Sophie Krause and Megan Anzuini. The second half of the quarter Sophie and Megan had the opportunity to lead the lessons to a second set of 1, 2, 3 grades. Unfortunately, Megan and Sophie will not be continuing with the internship and Emily and Vanessa must recruit new aspiring educators. They hope by the end of Winter quarter the garden is equipped with at least two trained UCSC interns ready to continue with this program in Spring, training more educators and serving mores students.

Currently, Emily and Vanessa are working on developing curriculum for grades 4,5, and 6. They are not alone in this process and are thankful to have teachers at Calabasas and several mentors from UCSC’s Sustainable Living Center as resources.

Words from the amazing interns of Fall 2010:

Sophie Krause:
Working with Calabasas has been too fun for words – I’d have to use a lot of hand signals and murmurs of delight to fully express just how amazing my time has been with this internship! Teaching an after school garden program has taught me more about myself, my community, and the future of this planet than I could have ever imagined. Surrounded by smiling faces, eagerly raised hands, and the energy and vivacity of today’s youth, I leave every work day feeling rewarded and content. Through this internship I have become empowered by my ability to creative positive agents of change for the future of our global community. This internship is not your average Environmental and Life Science Educational experience – you are given the power and imaginative license to create, adopt, and implement your own curriculum! This internship is a “must-do” for anyone interested in teaching or anyone who wants to make a difference in this world. Expect to get invited to lots of sleep-overs, to have lots of laughs, to make personal revelations, to gain applicable work experience, and to have an exhausting amount of fun!

Megan Anzuini:

Participating in the garden program at Calabasas Elementary School has been a wonderful experience. My goal was to combine my two passions: the outdoors and children. Teaching these students about the importance of the environment has been so rewarding, and I’ve learned so much in the process. Taking part in the four-week training part of the program was extremely beneficial. Not only was I introduced to the teaching process, but I worked one-on-one with an experienced garden coordinator to develop education techniques. In the following four-week session, I was given the unique opportunity to teach the curriculum myself, with my mentor there for reinforcement and additional support. Having an influence in the lesson plans and administration of the curriculum has further developed my teaching skills as well. This hands-on experience has provided me with immense tools that I will be able to utilize in future teaching situations. I would definitely recommend this program to anyone seeking to learn more about the education process, and willing to participate in facilitating change at a low-performing school.

Emily Fuentes:

After teaching a lesson on nutrition and snacking on edibles of all the colors of the rainbow, I overheard one student describe beets as “candy” to another student. I myself had never eaten a raw beet until I began this internship. Before this internship I never considered myself a gardener, never designed and taught my own lessons, and never had so much creative freedom with my schoolwork. Now I am referred to as a garden coordinator and I train others on how to teach my lessons as well as create their own. I can’t believe it. I am so blessed to be working with Vanessa. Her experience with the Life Lab Science Program has been an amazing contribution to the program and I learn something new from her everyday! I am sad to see Megan and Sophie leave the internship, but I am so proud to have seen them grow during the experience. I worked with Megan twice a week and we taught three different third grade classes. On our first day the students reluctantly entered the garden and spent the majority of the time pinching their noses while complaining about the smell of dirt. We made sure they played with mud before the end of class, having them sign the poster of garden rule with muddy handprints. Now, as we walk through the school we encounter past students asking if they can go to the garden that day, students who visit during recess, and a bunch running up with half eaten apple asking if they can deliver it to the compost so the worms can eat. Having one quarter left with the school, I am anxious to see the program continue after I leave. That has been my goal since Spring and every day I am closer to making it a reality. None of this would be possible with out the combined efforts of Vanessa, Megan, Sophie, the Sustainable Living Center, and the After School Program coordinators of Calabasas Elementary.

Vanessa Lang:

My work with the garden has been a challenging yet most rewarding experience. For the fall of 2010, I helped develop a curriculum for first and second grade. The curriculum incorporates Life Science State Standards into interactive garden lessons. Twice a week I take public transportation with Sophie Krause to Watsonville. Each day we strive to inspire these children about the garden and to try new fruits and vegetables. The rewards of teaching garden based education are numerous, especially to the students that attend Calabasas Elementary who have not experienced learning in an outdoor classroom. The rewarding moments that remain in my memory are: seeing students make the connection that some of their favorite foods like pizza and burgers depend on sun, soil, water and air to be made, and seeing their excitement and taste buds jump when they make fresh apple juice. This project is a continual learning process that involves developing curriculum, mapping garden beds, and training new interns. I have seen Sophie grow in her ability to teach and keep the children’s focus. I have enjoyed passing on the bag of tricks that I learned from mentors at the Life Lab Science Program on campus to interns at Calabasas Discovery Garden. The work that Emily and I do continues as we begin creating the Winter 11’ curriculum for 4,5,6 grades.

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