By Roy Wilburn.
At the start of 2019, the board members of the San Diego Horticultural Society unanimously approved two $1000 school garden grants for public schools that have or are planning on establishing school gardens. Applications were announced on the SDHS website and newsletter plus the San Diego Master Gardeners School Grant page. Of the 29 applications received, the selection committee, comprised of SDHS board members and the SD Master Gardeners School Garden Committee, tirelessly approved grants for two schools in San Diego County. The first school that received financial support was Pioneer Elementary in Escondido.
Pioneer Elementary currently has over 700 students from K to 5th grade. A garden space of close to 1800 square feet provides wonderful opportunities for learning, exploring, harvesting, teaching and outdoor wonder for the students! This started as the vision of Gwen Smith, a 4th grade teacher at Pioneer Elementary. Teachers take their classes out to the garden for lunch as a reward and guests come to instruct the students of various horticultural activities.
The garden is divided into sections consisting of drought tolerant plants, a creative flower house covered in Morning Glory, a rose garden with picnic tables and bird feeders, a pollinator area where they are working on a Way Station for Monarch butterflies and a succulent area where the children learn to propagate many plants. A pergola with two large lunch tables inspires the students to laugh, socialize, observe nature, enjoy their silent reading time and have photography, writing and art contests.
Teachers have their own garden planters producing fresh fruits and vegetables with their classes where they learn the importance of sustainability. Food can be taken to the cafeteria as well for their salad bar.
The grant they received will be used for establishing a fruit tree orchard as well as to maintain their existing gardens. Students are in the process of selecting their favorite tree fruit.
The school openly invites all members of the SDHS to come visit, maybe share some gardening knowledge and help “grow little gardeners”.