First of 12 Captain Planet School Learning Gardens Opens in Ventura County
The Captain Planet Foundation (CPF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards, has created its first Learning Garden in Ventura County with help from Food for Thought Ojai and Agromin. The garden is at Rio Del Norte Elementary School in Oxnard.
The Atlanta, Georgia-based foundation received funding from Keep America Beautiful to bring the Learning Gardens program to Ventura County. CPF’s Learning Gardens program started with a pilot of 12 schools in Metro Atlanta in 2009, and will include over 120 gardens by the end of 2014. Ventura County is the Learning Gardens Program’s first foray outside of Atlanta. Captain Planet and school volunteers build the gardens and Captain Planet then provides teachers with professional development, standards-based curriculum and kits of supplies necessary for teaching the curriculum. Participating schools also receive a fully-equipped mobile garden cooking cart and volunteers for summer garden management.
“Many of our students have family members who work in the agricultural business, yet they have never planted a seed themselves,” says Elise Legaspi, a third grade teacher at Rio Del Norte. “With this garden, the students will be able to watch and experience daily the wonder of planting a seed, caring for the young seedling and watching it grow and flourish.”
Twelve schools in Ventura County can participate in the garden program. Already on board are Tierra Vista Elementary School in Oxnard, Mound School and EP Foster Elementary School in Ventura and San Antonio Elementary School in Ojai.
Agromin, which produces organic compost from Ventura County green waste, is supplying the soil products for all the gardens. “Agromin is a strong proponent of teaching kids about how their food is grown. It gives them an appreciation of the hard work required to grow the food we often take for granted,” says Bill Camarillo, Agromin CEO. “We also see school gardens as a way for kids to realize the importance of closing the recycling loop. They understand that by using soil amendments made from leaves and branches, they are keeping green waste out of landfills and creating a more sustainable planet.”
“The garden will provide an ongoing source of inquiry and study in the area of life science,” says Gena Mathwin, another third grade teacher at Rio Del Norte. “We will be able to teach the students about healthy fruits and vegetables by standing right in the middle of our garden. It’s a wonderful opportunity to impact so many young minds and hearts (and stomachs!).”
“The Captain Planet Foundation is excited to expand its Captain Planet Learning Gardens Program to include Ventura County schools, thanks to generous support from Keep America Beautiful and local organizations like Wood-Claeyssens Foundation, Dole Foods, Limoneira, Union Bank, Mission Avocados, Ball Horticulture and Houweling’s Tomatoes,” says Kyla Van Deusen, gardens program manager at the Captain Planet Foundation. “This expansion would not be possible without Food For Thought Ojai, our local implementer. We’ve already seen Rio Del Norte Elementary School leverage our support to bring in a dozen additional growing spaces for their students.
Captain Planet teamed up with Food for Thought Ojai to facilitate the installation and running of the learning gardens. According to Food for Thought’s garden coordinator David White, “school gardens inspire our children and their families to make healthier food choices. Food for Thought has successfully run school gardens for the Ojai Unified School District for over 10 years and we’re excited about reaching out to schools throughout the county to share the insights and experience we have gained over this time.”
Teachers from participating schools will be attending a learning garden workshop on January 31 and February 1 at Hansen Agricultural Trust in Santa Paula. For information on how schools can apply for a Captain Planet Learning Garden, contact Kyla Van Deusen firstname.lastname@example.org, 404-522-4585.