How Can a Community Garden Enhance and Bring Our Community Together? | KCET
How Can a Community Garden Enhance and Bring Our Community Together?
Youth Voices is working with students from Arroyo High School to explore El Monte/South El Monte and the surrounding communities. The students have formed teams to explore and investigate their communities, map assets, collect and share stories, data and community input for their projects. All the while they are learning and expanding their knowledge of digital media and civic engagement. Follow their work on Instagram and Twitter by using #kcetyv.
Go Green AHS
Our goal is to restart a plan to convert an unused lot on the Arroyo High School Campus and continue the efforts of building a community garden for local residents and students. We hope the community garden can be a tool to inform and educate residents and students on the importance of community agriculture, alternative food options, and better nutrition. The idea to create a community garden was originally proposed by Ms. Lynn Dominguez, Arroyo High School's Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science teacher, and because of unforeseen circumstances the pursuit to complete the garden was dropped. The lot is located behind the tennis courts and the Santa Anita Blvd school rear entrance.
Connecting and learning from local community environmental organizations is important for the long-term success of the garden. This is why we have partnered with and are being mentored by Amigos de los Rios, the San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps, Earthworks Farm, and Arroyo High School's Green Team, a student club that supports a green environment for all.
So far we've communicated our ideas to teachers and administrators at Arroyo High School. We've spoken with Ms. Angelita Gonzales, our current Principal, and Mr. Oscar Gomez, Assistant Principal of Activities, to get approval and support. We discussed what we plan to do in our agenda, including the funds, the publicity of the garden, and the long-term sustainability of the garden. In response, they suggested certain things we should take into consideration before moving forward with our project, such as connecting with more sources outside of our school and also creating an entirely new club to sustain the garden for the long run. The discussion of the garden concluded with Principal Gonzales suggesting that we need a strong workforce and support from the Arroyo student body in order for this to succeed.
We also spoke with the co-founder of the previous garden, Mr. Richard Daniels, and explained to him that we wanted to restart the garden. This area measures about one third of an acre, a huge plot of land, to plant various amounts of native plants and edibles. The area was clearly worked on: five beds were set towards the front of the gated area, a wide path was made to walk through the garden, holes were dug for the trees, and the compost pile location had been already determined.
In order to determine if the area was able to grow edibles, Bryan Slade from Amigos Del Rios took a soil sample and sent it to a lab for analysis. Once the results came back, we referred back to Mr. Daniels, who was able to read the report and explain to us what the reports described.
A few weeks later, Bryan returned to our class to explain the results in further detail. Although the area seemed in an implantable state, the soil came back with extremely competent reports. The soil is currently perfect for planting, the pH was not too acidic, nor too basic and had enough nitrogen and phosphorus to provide nutrition to the soil.
He gave us tips on how to avoid vital mistakes in the garden and also gave us pointers on how we can start the garden without experiencing any difficulties. He lent us a mentoring hand to what we could do to receive expenses from non profit organizations who would gladly support our cause. Many of the supplies needed, such as seeds, soil, and compost, could be provided to us from Habitat for Humanity and Cal Poly School of Agriculture who frequently provide these items for community gardens. Once the supplies and beds are set for planting, we can gather the groups on campus, and rent out the beds for an affordable amount and get Arroyo students to help out benefiting both the garden and their own organizations.
We have already contacted the clubs that might be interested in lending a helping hand, including our community service organizations, KEY club and LEO club. Other teachers such as our journalism adviser and future garden club adviser, Ms. Jennifer Swanson, current AP environmental science teacher, Mr. Brad Pollack, and Mr. Jim Waterhouse, an environmentally active adviser of Green Team, have all volunteered to help with our cause.
With the power of the media, our school newspaper can easily publicize the garden. We plan to publicize the garden by opening a table for open house to get parents to support our cause. Also, we plan to attend eighth grade orientation to publicize to incoming freshmen about our garden and cause. We hope that in time, the Arroyo student body and staff will be able to produce enough edibles to start our own farmers market. With that, all these factors will help us move forward with our future project.
The layout of the garden is already planned and drawn out. In addition to planting the garden, we also hope to create a place where Arroyo students can come enjoy the scenery, much like a hangout area for people to enjoy. We have sketched out plans for a swing set and sitting stones for students to come and enjoy. Unlike the original garden plans, our team hopes to connect the Arroyo student body closer to the environment by opening it to everyone. However, there are also concerns of security and the safety of the edibles. If the plans do not go as planned, we may have to shut it off to the students and only allow authorized members to enter. Even so, we hope that this can be a garden for all of the Arroyo students to use.
If anything was possible and the funding was limitless, we would create a farmer's market and set it up at the parking lot behind the school. We would purchase landscaping decorations to brighten the place up and enforce high security for the sake of our edible plants. In the future, we hope we can make this possible since it is not at all an impossible thing to do. Maybe in the far future we will be able to come back and see what a difference we have made in our small community, but until then, we have lots of work to do.
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