What happened to the Sequoyah’s gardening program? From my perspective up here in the Junior High, the garden program has withered away. It is been a long time since I got my hands dirty in the plots behind the art and science trailers, before the school’s expansion in 2013. When I was in the Treehouse, and in younger classes, gardening was a big part of my learning experience. The students took pride in the garden, learning about different plants and how science is involved in growing plants. Now, I have lost touch with that knowledge, and with the earth.
So why does the gardening program at Sequoyah only extend from the Pond to the Treehouse, leaving out four classes?
Sequoyah’s gardening teacher, Jill McArthur, has the same question. “Gardening is a community effort, which should include the upper grades, and next year, the high school. The older students regularly ask me why they no longer get to garden.” The thought of gardening with older kids gets McArthur excited. “It would offer the opportunity to go so much more in depth than I am able to with the younger students.”
At Sequoyah, learning and helping the community is a lifelong journey. Contributing to the garden as an entire school would be a part of the Sequoyah experience that graduates could take to high school and college. There is no reason that gardening should be seen as an activity only for younger kids.
Consider what older students could take responsibility for, in terms of stewardship of the campus. Sequoyah has long planted and replanted grass on the field because of the dry California weather and the punishing effects of sports and games. Every few months, the grass dies and dries up beneath student’s feet. Operations patches up the grass during the breaks, cleaning up after the students’ damage.
It is the students, though, who use the field more than anyone else, so students should clean up the dead grass and replant the field! If Sequoyah students were to take ownership of the field, it would certainly help them appreciate everything the campus does for us. It would also bring Sequoyah students together and celebrate the school’s push for taking action in our community. Dedicating an hour or two of older-kid time to the Sequoyah field could help every single student at Sequoyah.
McArthur agrees. “I feel if the garden program could continue in the older classes a stronger sense of ownership and stewardship of the garden would develop.” I doubt that sense of ownership would stop at the borders of the raised planters, and greater ownership would be better for the school as a whole.
Sequoyah students should take action and insist on a gardening program for the older students. As McArthur pointed out to me, “the older students are also capable of engaging in the issues of urban land use,” so the curriculum could be rich and sophisticated, as their age requires. If older students demand a gardening program, McArthur is ready and willing.