24th St. Garden School

Oct15garden3The 24th Street Elementary School’s  Garden School, located 1/2 block west of Western, is celebrating its ten year anniversary.  

It was started by local neighbors and school staff  who worried about the children playing on hot asphalt with no shade. Their desire and efforts to create a learning garden paid off  and their wishes more than came true. What was once asphalt is now a huge organic kitchen and garden with an orchard of over 50  trees, 30  vegetable beds, a covered outdoor classroom with supply shed, and  a greenhouse. Trees planted when they were just sticks are now huge trees providing shade and  special places for a class  or a quiet spot to read. 

It serves not only as a much needed green place, it has become the center of outdoor classroom programs and community participation. The program has spread to six other elementary campuses  including Widney High School located next door to 24th.

Oct15garden1The garden based science, health  and nutrition programs held here provide 2,000 classes to over 2,500  kindergarten through 5th grade students every year. The bi-monthly one hour classes cost less than $10 a month for each student. 80 percent of the students who live in this underserved area fall below the federal  poverty line and many face daily hunger. 

The project started when a third of an acre of asphalt was removed to become a garden in 2005 while the play yard was repaved. In order to raise money to fund the project The Garden School Foundation was started. Receiving no federal or state funding, the money for the school garden is raised entirely through private donations.

Oct15garden2The Seed to Table garden-based curriculum, developed at the school, gives students first-hand experience planting seeds, tending plants, harvesting and cooking vegetables, and eating what they have grown. They quickly learn that fresh food tastes better and is healthier for them. They learn to work together prepare meals and sit together to enjoy what they have produced. They write and draw pictures of their experiences, incorporating math and English skills through their garden experiences.

Oct15Garden4It is thrilling that first graders can grow kale; make a kale salad, love what they are eating; learn that carrots grow underground and tomatoes grow on vines and don’t come from the fourth isle of the supermarket. Huge sunflowers are mixed in with vegetables, and the children learn to plant them in the spring, harvest the seeds in the fall, roast seeds, save some seeds for next years planting and then leave the sunflower head on the ground for the birds to finish off. 

The garden also provides a green environment, exposing children to the natural world through science experiments. By observation, following the process, they learn about the life cycle of living things, including themselves. They learn about worms through composting, about beneficial bugs and the role of bees in pollinating plants. They learn to identify trees and plants. Most importantly they are taught that they are connected to everything around them that nature is everywhere.

On an early planting day while digging in the garden, I observed  a fifth grader seeing an earthworm for the first time. She cried “Snake!!” obviously quite frightened. I reassured her by picking up the worm and putting it  in my cupped hand. Soon she and other students were giving me earthworms, and my two hands were loaded with squirming worms. We then released the worms and watched them wiggle back into the earth.

Earthworms have become  an important part of the school’s garden project, allowing the students to learn not only about the life cycle of worms but how to recycle. We  now have a compost center where worms help make compost from vegetables and fruit scraps from the school’s cafeteria and kitchen classroom and the compost is then used in the schools vegetable beds and orchard 

Oct15garden5Saturday Community garden days take place  once a month from 9:30 to 1 in the school garden.  School families and friends are invited to come to the garden to work and help take of care it. They often share in the making of a meal as well. It is a great way to meet new friends and to get outside. 

The next work day is October 10th, for more information about this and future community garden days, write This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

The annual Harvest Moon fundraiser party takes place at the school  garden on October 18th. With a garden inspired tapas meal, live music and live auction, the event promises to be a magical experience.  For details, contact Robin Moler: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 310-722-7657.

It is thrilling to see how this once hot place has become a thriving garden  for the  children and their community.

Learn more about the school from their web site 



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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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