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Tuolumne County School Gardens

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Last fall, a group of enthusiastic teens presented each member of the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors with a quart of minestrone soup they made using fresh vegetables from their Shaw’s Flat School garden. They told how they use fresh garden vegetables in cooking and nutrition classes where they learn about healthy eating and how to prepare delicious nutritional food.

They also served their soup to volunteer master gardeners who maintained the garden during the students’ summer absence. The garden project is directed by their teacher Joane Job and supported by Master Gardener volunteer Alexis Halstead, with initial contact by Master Gardener Julie Segerstrom. The students planted the garden using vegetable ‘starts’ obtained from the Waldorf School Garden plant sale and from Master Gardener Katy Wheeler’s greenhouse.

There are a number of active school gardens in Tuolumne County:

  • Chinese Camp students planted a vegetable garden mid February, with the direction and support of Master Gardener, Bob Behee.
  • The Sonora Elementary third grade garden is a stellar project, incorporated into the curriculum by teacher Mike Miller. The project-designed, constructed and planted by Miller and Master Gardeners Ulysses Verceles and Katy Wheeler-has expanded to involve parents and community agency volunteers and donations to teach students about healthy diets and growing their own fresh food.
  • The Waldorf School also has an active school garden with the leadership and support of Molly Ragland, teacher and Master Gardener.
  • Jamestown Elementary also has an established school garden that has been in use for several years. Master Gardener volunteers work with primary after-school-program students twice monthly.

Kids learn best from ‘hands on’ experiences and will remember what they learn. They love to work in the garden. They enjoy digging and preparing the soil, planting, watering and watching plants grow. They will taste and enjoy eating vegetables they didn’t think they liked. It’s a natural way for kids to learn.

School garden projects provide an excellent supplemental resource for classrooms and students, but must be kept simple to make them ‘user friendly’ and not make an added burden for very busy teachers who already have the day filled with required curriculum, activities and meetings. School budgets are stretched and not available for gardening projects. Master Gardener volunteer support is available, and there are some funds for basic gardening needs. Master Gardeners can work with schools to set up a garden space and provide support. For more information, call 209-533-5696.