Environmental education can start at any age – one local nonprofit is helping to get kids in their earliest years of school out of the classroom to learn about science, our natural environment, and healthy food.
The organization Living Classroom has worked with six elementary schools in the Campbell Unified School district to design and maintain native and edible gardens and/or to provide hands-on environmental education programs to students in kindergarten through third grade. The projects are funded by the Authority's Measure Q Urban Space and Environmental Education Grant Programs, $65,000 for the garden project and $10,000 for the environmental education program.
This year, the program plans to teach 340 lessons serving serve more than 1,000 students in the district. Hands-on activities range from baking pretzels using wheat that they grew in the garden, acting out skits about photosynthesis, and a scavenger hunt to learn about native plants and animals. Beyond providing a fun way to introduce students to the natural world, these programs provide the real-life experiential learning opportunities that help districts fulfill the science instruction mandates of California’s recently adopted Next Generation Science standards.
“So much of what we do is rewarding,” said Living Classroom Executive Director, Margot Gutierrez Harrigan. “Parents tell us things like, “Thank you! My child refused to eat vegetables, and now she wants me to buy her squash!’”
But perhaps the most exciting element of her work is the joy she sees in students that are engaged with their activities and ready to learn.
“I remember walking into the school once pulling our little green wagon full of garden supplies. I overheard a little boy, wide-eyed whisper to friend, ‘Now this is going to fun!’”
Living Classroom was recently featured with the Open Space Authority on an episode of NBC Bay Area's "OpenRoad with Doug McConnell." View the episode online here!