This was submitted by Lisa Thibodeau, a parent with children enrolled in Maria Montessori Charter Academy in Rocklin:
Just three years ago, a quarter-acre plot of land alongside Maria Montessori Charter Academy in Rocklin was weed-ridden, rocky and seemed inhospitable for growing anything. Still, teachers and parents had a vision -- a verdant span of vegetable boxes, surrounded by fruit trees and flowers where the children could get their hands dirty and learn about food. The idea was to build an "outdoor classroom" where the school's 300 kindergarten through eighth-graders could learn not only natural science, but also how to grow their own nutritious food.
Principal Brent Boothby, teacher Petsy Wendt and a few dedicated parents made a plan, and with the help of local business, a few corporate sponsors and many hours of hard work a plentiful garden is growing. The fenced garden boasts irrigation, dedicated vegetable boxes for each classroom, stadium seating, a big red barn and a compost station.
Excited kids, pull on gloves and take turns working with parent-docents who volunteer their time. They harvest what they grow (cauliflower, tomatoes, squash) and eat it at snack time - yes, even broccoli. Parent volunteer Heather Martin was delighted, "The most surprising moment for me came last year, when every kindergartener and first-grader (even those who swore they didn't like it) tried broccoli from their own garden bed. Lots of kids had seconds, and every bite got eaten."
School officials plan to teach natural farming methods, like crop rotation, encourage children to share from their "classroom farms" and work to incorporate produce from the garden into their school meal program within the next two years. The kids will eat the produce they grow for their school lunch.
While the school does struggle to find enough parents willing to participate in order to accomplish their goals, they had no trouble getting the students on board. "The kids have been enthusiastic and engrossed. From tiny kindergarteners who were astonished when their seeds pushed up green shoots, to the big, burly eighth-graders who can't wait to show off their shoveling strength--the kids have responded with joy."