H+A recently revisited two of our elementary school projects to see what’s been growing alongside our buildings. The thriving Garden Program/ Outdoor Classroom, led by Molly Wahl, sprouted up on the hillside next to our new building at Madera Elementary in El Cerrito. Molly is using almost every square inch of terraced green space for student-led projects. Third graders are the “farmers” at Madera – experiencing a whole growing season from selecting seeds to taking their crop to the school’s own Farmer’s Market. The sixth graders are in the process of designing a native garden for an unused hillside, and one student is working on prototypes for an escape-proof chicken coop.
At Cleveland Elementary, Mary Schriner, the Kindergarten Special Ed teacher, leads the school-wide ecoliteracy program on green spaces carved out from strips along ramps, buildings, and ball courts. These areas host multiple gardens – some for food crops, some for butterflies and scents, another that focuses on history. Artistic paintings on the asphalt display the growth cycle and a compass, relating back to gardens that surround it. Mary leads several special ecoliteracy day-long events at Cleveland. Red Hen Day takes the youngest students through the process of helping the “red hen” get her work of bread baking done. Everyone chips in planting wheat, kneading dough, and, finally, enjoying the bread.
It’s wonderful to see how these stand-out educators are using the outdoors for learning centered on creating more ecoliterate students. We're hoping to return to give feedback on Madera’s native garden designs and to help out with the next Red Hen Day.