The rich, vibrant food and nature culture that we enjoy in the Pacific Northwest begins with and is sustained by attentive stewardship for the earth. At the Earth School we believe stewardship starts young, and so we’ve integrated gardening into the life of our entire school.
The garden program is fully woven into the entire school experience via:
Classroom Instruction: Through classroom experiences and hands-on experience, students learn traditional botany as well as ecology, soil studies, and weather watching. Students grow and eat food from indoor window boxes and from two large vegetable gardens on school grounds. We make our own compost: each classroom has a worm compost bucket for lunch scraps, and every autumn students rake and compost all the leaves that descend upon our land. Students in Lower and Upper Elementary meet with the garden instructor every other week, and many classes continue similar investigations on their own. Formal garden lessons may focus on using the garden to illustrate science, math, or even historical concepts or they may focus on increasing students’ knowledge of gardening practices.
Landscape Design: All age levels benefit from the on-going development of the school’s gardens and landscaping which are specially designed for interaction, education, and nutrition purposes. The Children’s House classrooms have dedicated garden spaces and students from Lower Elementary and upwards can explore and work in our two vegetable gardens, various rain gardens and a large pollinator garden. In addition students have access to an outdoor classroom area, individual raised bed boxes, natural benches & native plant areas. Garden projects like raised-bed design and construction provide students hands-on building experience. Our Upper Elementary students study landscape design and execute a planting project every few years, and our St Francis Academy students are involved in the ongoing maintenance of our grounds.
Food & Nutrition: Students learn how to prepare simple foods in garden class; like a salad with a vinaigrette or a chapatti made from school-grown, student-ground wheat. The school’s philosophy is also reflected in the school lunch program, especially in the SFA kitchen where stidents prepare their own lunch every day under the guidance of a cook and with full access to our home-grown vegetables. Research studies show that a school gardening program can help students make healthier food choices, thus setting the stage for healthier adult lives.
Age-Appropriate Structure: The garden experience begins at the Children’s House level with close observation of nature in their garden spaces. As students grow, the garden curriculum becomes more complex and increasingly intertwined in their overall school experience. For example, by middle school, students may experience the life cycle of food by preparing a school garden, growing tomatoes in the garden, using food drying screens to dry the tomatoes, and then using the dried tomatoes as food on their Aboriginal Earth Experience camping trip.
Community Involvement: Recognizing that our school is a member of the wider community, we also outreach to our neighborhood, including summer gardening-related camps for local residents.