Paso Verde’s new garden: Outdoor education for Pumas to eat

--- Published on October 27th 2017 ---
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Oranges, peas, broccoli, cauliflower – and students will grow, too, in Paso Verde School’s new garden.

Learning will blossom.

Essays and science experiments will take root.

Call it outdoor education you can eat.

That’s the idea behind Paso Verde’s huge planter boxes, seven in all, which were introduced to the public Thursday (Oct. 26) as a valuable addition to the K-5 school’s STEAM focus — Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.

“It teaches them responsibility and it teaches them where food comes from and how it grows,” parent Yating Campbell said. “It’s a great opportunity for them.”

Principal Tonja Jarrell said that Paso Verde’s name is Spanish for “green path,” and students will explore the concept of “sustainability,” meaning taking care of and preserving natural resources. Gardening will fit right in.

At Paso Verde’s public ceremony, an official but lighthearted and easy-to-remember name for the garden was revealed: “Lettuce Turnip the Beet.”

Jarrell can envision cross-curricular academic assignments sparked by Paso Verde’s gardening, such as having students track the height of plants, measure water intake, observe how light affects growth, and record their observations in essays or journals.

Paso Verde is a new K-5 school, launched in August, and the garden will contribute to building a strong campus community while encouraging problem-solving and outdoor education. One proposal is to pair 5th graders with Kindergarten “buddies” in gardening projects, Jarrell said.

“It’s a fantastic idea,” parent Jill deDiego said of the garden, adding that her 2nd-grade daughter has benefited from helping to grow plants at home.

Paso Verde’s garden was funded largely by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, but it has gotten a big boost from community friends, too — Natomas Cub Scout Pack 402 and Girl Scout Troop 1290, for example, helped to create facilities ranging from picnic tables to signs. The PTA has been a big booster. Sacramento County Farm Bureau pitched in $350 for the edible project. 

Selah Schoech, whose twin sons are Paso Verde Pumas, said the garden can impact eating habits as well as learning, because kids are more likely to try new fruits and vegetables if they were involved in growing and harvesting them.

Some of Paso Verde’s crops will be picked and eaten as part of a yearlong “Cooking with Kids” program at Paso Verde that was launched recently by NUSD’s Nutrition Services Department. The garden’s produce will rotate from season to season — potatoes and carrots in winter, perhaps, peas in spring.

The first dwarf trees or seedlings for the new garden – orange, mandarin, broccoli and cauliflower – were donated by Fiery Ginger Farm of West Sacramento.

Associate Supt. Heather Garcia attended Paso Verde’s public ceremony and applauded the learning possibilities.  “It’s a way to bring the school community together and teach students how to nurture their body with wholesome, homegrown food, physical activity and fresh air,” she said. “What better way than through nutrition?”