by Debra Leith, Garden Chair

    October saw the launch of a new District-wide garden instruction program linked to Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards, delivered by a team of school garden instructors from 2eden design.garden.grow (and led by our own Brookside parent volunteer and Garden Chair, Debra Leith). This program is funded by the District.

    The program kicked off with the roll-out of six weeks of garden instruction for all DK-1st Grade students at all of the District's elementary schools, including here at Brookside. Garden instruction also began at Oak Park Neighborhood Preschool and, in addition, the 2eden team are also mentoring the Garden Club at Medea Creek Middle School.

    Three weeks into the first block of teaching and students (and their teachers!) are enjoying getting their hands dirty learning about germination, making compostable seed trays from recycled grocery bags, learning how to mix the best soil for seed starting and how to 'broadcast' cool season organic vegetable seeds including beets, radish, spinach, lettuce, chard, kale and broccoli. Whilst our budding green thumbs wait for their sprouts to grow big enough for transplanting into our school garden, lessons have progressed to identifying six parts of a plant (roots, stem, leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds) and the difference between fruits and vegetables.

    As a very practical example of how Brookside PTA really does help to enrich educational opportunities, the PTA released funds from the Garden Program budget to buy tables and netting for our seed starting - which was otherwise going to be a huge challenge in our small garden space. We encourage you to take a look along the far side of the garden (by the playing field) and check out the many sprouts in the recycled seed trays made by our youngest students! We are still having a few issues with bunnies getting to the trays on the ground and are working on a solution! Additionally, anyone who has brown paper grocery bags that they would like to see re-purposed, we will be setting up a special blue recycle bin in the garden area for students to drop off their used, but clean, brown paper bags. Look out for this announcement in Tiger Tidbits!

    Also specific to the Brookside Garden, we are now removing warm season plants and getting ready for cool season growing. The beds will look a little empty for a while but, will hopefully soon be filled to the max with the transplants that our students are growing. The end of the summer saw a good harvest of zucchini, some tomatoes, Japanese cucumbers and lettuce. The cool season should bring us lots of leafy greens, peas, artichokes and harvest from our two citrus trees. In addition, Brookside PTA also recently purchased the Tower Garden aeroponics system, which was at the end of its loan period from the vendor. We are now the first garden in the district to own a soil-less, highly scientific growing system! The students will be replanting the system with new plants soon, ready for the cool growing season.

    As soon as we get the new cool season plants in the planters, we will issue the next edition of our Garden Walk and Talk guide. This easy to follow update will be distributed to our Class Garden Contact volunteers and teachers so that they have all the information they need to lead an independent walk through the garden with their class. We encourage each class to nominate a Garden Contact volunteer. It's a flexible way to volunteer and help share news and updates about what's growing in our garden. We give you the information, you arrange a convenient day and time to lead a garden tour with your class.

    Finally, DK-1st Grade students are scheduled to complete the District six week garden unit before winter break. The program will then roll out to 2nd and 3rd Grade in January-March 2016, and then 4th and 5th Grade in mid-late March next year.