McNear Elementary School: Petaluma

The Life Sciences Garden is a living, growing classroom helping to educate children about the natural world. The edible garden includes native plants, habitat gardens, and salad production beds. There are 12 raised beds dedicated to vegetables, 16 barrels, a 20-person bamboo bean tipi and various trellises for herbs and other companion plants. Included are three different kinds of table grapes (all seedless, of course), a kiwi, five barrels of raspberries, three boxes of strawberries, two beautiful blueberry shrubs and three Meyer lemon trees.

With the SGN Garden-Based Education grant, students have learned about soil conservation, crop rotation, composting and nutrition in a hands-on environment. The garden education coordinator integrates the school curriculum (including FOSS life sciences) into garden lessons. The goal is for K-6 students to spend time in the garden each week, participating in a variety of center-based activities appropriate to each grade level. After school enrichment includes cooking classes and composting/recycling/repurposing from the garden.

An Eagle Scout troop, SRJC horticulture department, an SSU intern, a dedicated garden committee and other volunteers have all contributed to the picnic tables, chalkboard, display case and lessons in the garden classroom.

With additional funding from Petaluma Education Foundation, the garden program plans to develop learning prompts to include signage for self-guided lessons with information, questions and tools like measuring tape and magnifying lenses.