The Dry Garden: Boxy

Natalie Saavedra (3rd grader) at San Jose-Edison Academy School Garden in Covina, CA. Photo: Emily Green

Most people, save Atlantic magazine’s resident contrarian Caitlin Flanagan, agree that school gardens are a good thing. They encourage experimentation, critical thinking and healthful eating. Done right, they raise parental participation in schools. At their best, they’re as cute as a third-grader grubbing for worms.

Too often, however, teachers are defeated from the outset by the burden of installing and then maintaining a garden in addition to a classroom.

Click here to keep reading about a workable new model for schools in “The Dry Garden” in the Los Angeles Times.

Unpaving paradise

This photo essay tells the story of a successful effort between 2003 and 2007 to intercept a re-paving project at 24th Street School in West Adams, Los Angeles. The bid: stop replacement of old asphalt with new asphalt and instead seize the opportunity to introduce teaching gardens, shade, play equipment and freeway buffering into the schoolyard. What military strategists call “mission drift” led to it also involving a full-blown garden teaching program.

An effective teacher

With apologies to its followers, “The week that was” is postponed and will return next Sunday. I am cleaning up after a party, and not any party, but a farewell party for Michelle Ereckson, who after more than a decade teaching at 24th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles has transferred to a campus closer to her new home.

Those who believe in the test score rankings of teacher effectiveness compiled by the Los Angeles Times will be neither impressed nor horrified by Michelle. The Times, in its statistical beneficence, rates her as “average.”

A creative commons for school gardens

Good Magazine today announced the five finalists in its school garden design competition. Click on this shortlisted entry by Joseph Sandy of Arcadia, California to see all of the designs. Before giving you the account of competition organizer and Good writer Alissa Walker, a note. As a judge in the competition, it was thrilling to see the thought and creativity that went into 40 submissions. It was perhaps even more exciting to be involved in such a beautifully conceived competition, which set guidelines that should be achievable by any campus. Kudos in this department is probably due to Mud Baron, Green Policy Director for LAUSD Board Member Marguerite LaMotte, and a man who has seen first hand what works and what doesn't, then set out to promote and popularize the best approaches. From Walker's announcement: Finalists will attend a one-day workshop with landscape architect Mia Lehrer to refine their proposals.

Sight and understanding

In November, 2009, with support from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Los Angeles Audubon, the students, parents and staff at Leo Politi Elementary School planted a native garden at the Pico Union campus. Last week, botanical studies of the plants drawn and colored by the students went on display in the school auditorium. If they look traced, and I took them for that in an earlier edition of this post, they’re not (please see Margot Griswold’s correction below). Rather, while the display and attitude of the plants in the drawings look like they owe a debt to professional illustrations, the studies by the children were made as part of a class in which the students grew, dissected and studied the plants. Then their eyes were guided along the minute conformations of plants that most of us never see. They were being taught to observe the species, then key

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    Emily Green by e-mail at emily.green [at] mac.com
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