Written by Kamala Brown, Teacher at Elsie Allen High School

Elsie Allen teachers Maria Aguirre, Kamala Brown and Sara Riddick have all been wanting to bring gardening to Elsie Allen High School for some time. While the students in the Agriculture Program at Elsie Allen do have access to gardening, the school population as a whole does not. There are so many reasons why gardening is beneficial for our students. Mainly, it is a way for them to connect with nature and beauty right on our campus. Having a group of students who work to beautify our campus through gardening is something extremely positive for our entire school community as well. It gives the students ownership over their school. It helps to create bonds between students and fosters self esteem by showing students they can do something that has a positive impact on their school. It impacts even students who are not in the garden club to see a more beautiful school and to make our campus a place that humans enjoy being. Not to mention the learning that occurs while gardening (biology, soil science, chemistry, ecology, design, etc.).

If you have been to the EAHS campus before, you know that it is predominantly made out of concrete. We do, however, have quite a few planter boxes. While we love our custodians and they do a tremendous job keeping our school functioning and clean, they do not necessarily have the time and resources to also take care of the planter boxes and so the boxes get neglected.

This is where the Garden Club comes in! Ms. Aguirre contacted Ms. Riddick who is the chair of the Agriculture Department about doing some gardening on campus with students. Ms. Riddick looped in Ms. Brown who had been wanting to start a gardening program for the past few years. Ms. Aguirre and Ms. Brown met and decided that the best course of action would be to start with a club. And thus, the Elsie Allen Garden Club was born.

The first meeting was announced through the weekly bulletin as well as by individual teachers through their google classrooms. At our first Zoom meeting we had over 10 students and it built from there. Since it was close to the end of the school year, we decided that we needed a small, high impact project for our first garden project. We decided that the planter box outside the Administration Building would be a good place to start as everyone in the school goes in and out of there at some point during their time on campus.

Since we started before students were back in person on campus, we needed to set up a non-instructional cohort which required a lot of paperwork and permission slips. But, we did it and on May 19, a few dedicated students along with Ms. Aguirre, Ms. Riddick and Ms. Brown prepared the planter box for plants that Ms. Riddick and Ms. Brown had purchased over the weekend using Ag Department funding.

The following week, on May 26, a much larger group of students got out there again with gloves, trowels and fertilizer and planted all the plants. Ms. Riddick and her Ag students then painted inspirational garden rocks and placed them in the planter along with new, clean wood chips.

We look forward to supporting students next year to grow the Garden Club in a student driven way. Possibilities include planting more planter boxes with both ornamental and edible plants and trees as well as putting in gardens in some of the open grassy areas around campus. The possibilities are endless!