Monday, January 22, 2024

More Voices From the Field on Gardening in Afterschool

Source: Courtesy of Change The Tune

By Sam Piha

Afterschool programs are particularly well positioned to engage youth in gardening activities. To learn more about this, we interviewed two afterschool practitioners: Sara Brown (SB), Garden Educator and Coordinator, A.P. Giannini Middle School, SFUSD, and Charli Kemp (CK), Executive Director, Change the Tune. (Note: Our series of blog posts on gardening in afterschool are excerpts from a larger briefing paper entitled, Gardening in Afterschool Programs.) 

Q: WILL YOU BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR GARDENING PROGRAM?

SB: The AP Giannini Middle School Garden Program hosts inquiry based environmental education classes during the school day and hosts a Garden Lunch Club twice a week. We also offer community engagement opportunities for community members both during and outside of school time. 

CK: Part of our innovation comes from focusing on food justice. Our goal is to build the capacity in our youth who are our future leaders to be able to not replicate broken systems, but to build sound powerful structures that are designed to center the voices of the collective. Part of that work centers food justice and gardening. By teaching youth how to grow their own food and then cook their own food, they learn a variety of soft and hard skills that prepare them to understand we are what we eat. We have to cultivate our wellness through our work with the soil and our food.  

Q: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF GARDENING WITH YOUTH? 

SB: Benefits to the youth:

  • Hands on project based learning opportunities, cooking with fresh fruits and vegetables!
  • Science exploration, inquiry-based learning opportunities.
  • Getting students outside interacting with the natural world
  • Give students who don't thrive in a classroom setting alternative modes of learning
  • Skill building i.e. learning to use new tools and how to take care of living things

Benefits to staff:

  • Hands on learning and teaching opportunities
  • Project-based learning, staff isn't constantly having to come up with new lesson plans, projects can be ongoing
  • Skill building i.e. learning to use new tools and how to take care of living things 

CK: 

  • Healthier food options
  • Opportunity to apply STEM concepts
  • Clarity around the food chain process 
  • Building connection to our land and our soil
  • Joy in the learning space  

Q: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE POTENTIAL CHALLENGES?

SB: 

  • Accepting that it will take a long time for it to feel sustainable, the first few years there will probably be a lot of disappointments
  • Having the capacity for a staff to be continuously caring for the garden
  • Things in the natural world are less likely to go according to plan
  • Sustainability, how can we make sure this can be a continuous program?

CK: Finding the resources and capacity to continue programming. 

Source: Courtesy of Change The Tune

Q: HOW SHOULD A PROGRAM PREPARE ITSELF TO INCORPORATE GARDENING?

SB:

  • A maintenance plan i.e: who is going to water, take care of the soil, do pest management?
  • Think long-term what will happen over school breaks, what seasons will the garden need more support and utilize volunteer support
  • Start small, with something you know you have the capacity to maintain, i.e.: 1-2 garden beds and maybe a worm compost bin

CK: 

  • Talk to your constituents. Ask what they would like to do. 
  • Engage local experts, create collaboration and partnership opportunities.  

Q: ANY RESOURCES THAT YOU WOULD RECOMMEND?

SB:

CK:  https://plantpluglosangeles.com/

Q: ARE THERE ANY ORGANIZATIONS TO CONSIDER PARTNERING WITH? (COMMUNITY GARDENS, PARENTS, LOCAL BUSINESSES, ETC.) TO GET DONATIONS? TO LEARN MORE? 

SB:

  • Parents for volunteer support, donations of supplies
  • Nurseries: will usually donate last years seeds
  • Local coffee shops: for coffee grounds for compost
  • Community gardens, for gardening questions and sometimes spare plant starts

CK: 

Source: Courtesy of Change The Tune

Q: WOULD YOU OFFER ANY ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR PROGRAM LEADERS?

SB:

  • Have grace for yourself, gardening can both be very rewarding and frustrating things often don't go according to plan
  • Always plant more than you think you will need
  • It's okay to get starts from a nursery, somethings are really hard to grow from seeds (like alliums)
  • Take care of your tools
  • Plant things with an idea of what you can cook with youth

MORE ABOUT…

Sara Brown has been the garden teacher and coordinator at AP Giannini Middle School in San Francisco, for 3 years and has 7 years of experience in Environmental Education. Their work is fueled by their belief in making science learning and the natural world accessible to all. Currently, they are getting their Master's in Science Education at San Jose State University, so that they can continue to foster non-traditional learning settings in which students can thrive. Their favorite activities in the garden are finding worms and watching the chickens run like tiny t-rexes.   

Bay Area Community Resource’s (BACR) mission is to promote the healthy development of individuals and families, encourage service and volunteerism, and help build community. They carry out their mission by (1) providing direct school- and community-based services, (2) connecting volunteers with opportunities to best serve their communities, and (3) building and strengthening all of the communities they serve so that community members and institutions can effect change. 

Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center (SNBC) offers afterschool programming at several schools, including AP Giannini Middle School. It is a community-based organization serving San Francisco’s Sunset District. Their mission is to provide supports and opportunities to ensure the healthy development of children, youth, and adults. Their purpose is to connect people to their passion, potential, and community.

Charli Kemp is the Executive Director of Change the Tune. She is a curator of transformative, musical-learning experiences that empower individuals to create positive systemic change. Utilizing education as a vehicle for activism, Charli is driven in her desire to end inequitable systems, to create opportunities and access for underserved communities. With Change The Tune, she seeks to reimagine the learning space by creating revolutionary extended learning spaces that provide radical and transformational learning experiences in partnership with communities.

Change The Tune is a 501c3 nonprofit that works to close the opportunity gap for youth in underserved communities by creating holistic, radical, and transformational extended learning experiences in partnership with communal organizations. They have three key strategies in their approach to this work: create & lead programs that students love, train & develop organization & school leaders, and mobilize communities to invest in innovative learning approaches. Change The Tune serves schools in Los Angeles, Chicago, Sommerville and the Bahamas. 


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Videos: Good for adults and youth

Activities: 

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