The Outdoor Science program and school gardens were created in 2002 and currently are maintained by students, parents and staff. Sunset’s PTA funds an Outdoor Science consultant who works with all Sunset classes by integrating the learning garden into classroom curriculum. Students observe and investigate the life sciences and develop compassion for the natural world.
Moving forward, Sunset Elementary wishes to ensure the knowledge, excitement, and perspectives gained in the learning garden are taken home. Our strategy is to streamline our garden, so students can plan, grow and harvest vegetables, herbs and starts and make them available to their families. With a seasonal garden stand and an annual plant sale, we feel we could strongly connect our student’s school communities with their home communities. By taking veggies and plants home, students will be sharing their excitement and knowledge with their families, and infiltrating healthy habits into their daily lives.
Growing up in the progressive city of San Francisco, our students are on the cutting-edge of sustainability. Models abound for sustainable practices regarding building, land-use, solid waste, transportation and more. Therefore it comes naturally to teach our youth sustainable gardening practices. Our Learning Garden is used to expand our student’s knowledge and appreciation of organisms and ecosystems. Throughout the school year every child visits the garden for at least one hour a week, during two eight-week sessions. Students conduct experiments and investigations to study soil, photosynthesis, pollination, lifecycles and more. As students deepen their understanding of the intricacies and delicacies of the natural world, they develop a connection to it, and grow a strong desire to take care of it.
Each weekly class ends with “Garden Chores” and every student helps to maintain our garden. The students learn to cultivate, weed, maintain the compost, make worm tea and fertilize our plants with it, fix the drip irrigation, mulch, seed save, prune, plant, harvest, and perform all the routine tasks that sustain our organic garden. Students enjoy garden chores so much that many of them also come during their recess to continue helping. The differences between conventional and sustainable gardening practices are taught, and the benefits of sustainability are understood.
Sunset elementary students LOVE to eat from the school garden. Countless parents rave about how their child, after eating a certain food from the garden, asks for it and eats it at home. In addition to sampling throughout, the final lesson of each eight-week session is dedicated to health and nutrition. The nutritional value and subsequent health benefits of different foods are learned. Students harvest, prepare and enjoy produce from the garden and discover why they are healthy choices. From blending garden pesto, to steeping herbal tea, to rolling fresh spring rolls, students are equipped with skills to prepare healthy foods, and the knowledge for making smart choices.