More than 30 volunteers turned out for the event, during which students, parents and faculty dug holes and spread mulch for three hours. Members of the community, including a raw food educator, planting educators and a garden designer were also in attendance. Jennifer Sims, coordinator of the school’s International Baccalaureate program, said the turnout was greater than expected, rendering coordinators hopeful for the garden’s future.
“We want this to be a garden where learning will take place, where students can learn about local foods and what we can do in our own yards,” Sims said. “The purpose is to learn how we can take care of our oceans and what we can do to grow our own food locally.”
The event will be followed up by the actual planting of the crops on Jan. 8. Student gardeners said they are happy to have a chance to get their hands dirty and spend some time outdoors.
“Our school didn’t have a garden before, and now we have this nice, big area,” said sixth-grader Jacob Cayetano. “It was just fun to be with friends while helping the environment and the cool part is we’ll get to see the plants grow and know we did that.”
The project began two years ago with the suggestion to convert a vacant patch of land on the school’s campus into a student garden. Ideas about how the small plot could be used and what the ultimate goal of the garden would be circulated among faculty, until it was decided that an “ocean-friendly” garden was the way to go. Hannah Bloom, a sixth-grader at the time, started a fundraiser called Leaves that Grow Trees to procure the garden’s anchor tree, around which all the other plants will be placed. The garden further benefited from a $1,000 donation from students Timothy Daly and Collin Tandy, who contributed the scholarship money they won for the Green Idea for Life Video Competition.
Designated by the Surfrider Foundation, ocean-friendly gardens have to meet a strict set of requirements based on three principles: conservation, permeability and retention, with the idea being that crops are locally sustainable and rainwater is retained for use in the garden instead of running off into the ocean. Sims said PBMS plans to incorporate ocean-friendly requirements gradually, with the ultimate goal of earning the official title.
Sims and other administrators are looking at incorporating some of the fruit and vegetables from the garden in the school cafeteria, primarily in the salad bar. The school is also in talks with local restaurants to “rent” out some of the crop rows for locally-grown produce during the summer when classes are not in session.
For some students, the real honor is in having an activity that gives them something to be proud of. Ariana Iverson, 12, said she was grateful for the opportunity to participate in an event of an environmental nature.
“I usually don’t have anything to do after school when I get home, but I saw my friends were doing it, so I joined them,” said the sixth-grader. “This is healthy for the environment and it’s really inspirational.”