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Tending to the School Gardens of Tomorrow: Arroyo High's Knights Garden

Student Gardner: Savanna, Mabel, Tiffany, Stephanie, and Brianna with Ms. Jennifer Swanson, Knights Garden Adviser
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This is part of a series of multimedia stories curated through a collaboration between Earthworks Farm and KCETLink. Watch a segment from KCET's "SoCal Connected" and visit the project hub for more information.

One school is challenging the current model of school lunch. Watch the five-minute California Matters episode about it here.

 

When we first started the KCETLink Youth Voices program our goal was to create a project that could help the students at Arroyo High School learn about our current environment, local food systems, and urban agriculture, but most importantly redefine the negative way others see our city. We wanted to show that in El Monte students are initiating positive change and we are capable of changing the place we call home. As a group we decided to take an unused plot of land on school grounds and start a school garden that could be used as an outdoor learning classroom, which would double as an extension of our home economics class where we could potentially learn about eating healthy, using what we would grow at the garden. As of now, we are happy to report that our first crop of jalapeños and tomatoes is well on its way to become a bowl of healthy salsa in the near future.

 

Weeks have past since the Knights Garden broke ground and the overall response from the community at large has been positive. Many people have shared interest in joining and becoming part of our healthy food and gardening movement. We hope other local schools within our district can use our template and follow in our footsteps of making an environmentally conscious and healthy student community.

One unexpected surprise that happened was the request for a visit from Mr. Bart Patel, City of El Monte's Mayor Pro Tem and Dr. Sergio Flores, Assistant Superintendent for El Monte Union High School District. Mr. Patel and Dr. Flores were interested in learning how we created and organized other students to see a school garden as an important and valuable tool to our learning.

Students Gardeners Till the Soil and De-weed for the Planting of a New Crop
Students Gardeners till the soil and de-weed for the planting of a new crop

Overall, starting a school garden has been very educational because most of us didn't know how and where to begin. Building connections was the most crucial lesson learned during our KCET Youth Voices experience, because this is just the beginning of our school garden. As a team we've learned the fundamentals of gardening and urban agriculture through the mentorship of the L.A. Conservation Corps, Earthworks Farm, Amigos del Rios, and Arroyo's Life Science Department Chair Mr. Richard Daniels. This process so far has helped us understand the importance of healthy foods and sustainable agriculture.

Determined to make the impossible possible as a team, we kept true to our goal of creating a school garden that could potentially change the relationship between healthy food and our students. Eventually, we broke ground and the garden was on its way -- also we created a student gardening club named the Knights Garden. Initially we spoke with Bryan Slade, Outreach and Volunteer Associate at Amigos de los Rios -- he explained the soil samples we sent to be tested for toxins returned healthy for a potential garden to live.

Students Gardeners Till the Soil and De-weed for the Planting of a New Crop
Students Gardeners till the soil and de-weed for the planting of a new crop
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Looking back on the past nine months of our KCETLink Youth Voices program we've learned how to contact supporting organizations; develop our voice as writers and journalists; learn of the many community assets currently available in our city; and know that we have the capacity to inform everyone about the importance of urban agriculture and healthy food. But most importantly we learned how to communicate our message to adults, students, and city officials -- we learned to put our journalistic skills into practice.

 

Knights Garden and beyond!

Our next step is to continue to maintain, plant, and harvest from our garden throughout the summer into the fall. Currently we're in the process of electing new Knights Garden Club Officers for the upcoming academic year. We're also in the process of getting different seeds for our fall and winter harvest of plants that we can make into healthy recipes. As for our long term goal, we hope to establish a Farmer's Market open to the local community and where a portion of the proceeds could be donated to local domestic violence shelters for women and children.

If you're interested becoming a members of our gardening community here a few ways you could support our efforts:

Join the Knights Garden Club: If you're a Arroyo High School student you could join the Knights Garden Club. Check with the Association of Students Body (ASB) for the official days and times of our meetings.

Saturday Workdays: Join our once a month community work days the 1st Saturday of the month. Since school is coming to an end we will continue in the Fall with our 1st workday on Saturday, September 5th and then every 1st Saturday of the month.

Donate: Give us your leftover manure, seeds, wood for planting beds, or any gardening tools you don't need any more.

Social Media: Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, or by the hashtag #KnightsGarden

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