A Passion for Hands On Learning

"What vegetable is this?"

"How heavy is it?"

"How long is it?"

"What does it taste like?"

"Can we cook it?"

"Can we eat it raw?"

"Can we try it?"

"What else is growing?"

These are questions that are being asked at Whittier Elementary School as students explore their new outdoor learning garden this month.

The dream of creating a school garden where students could gain hands-on experience with growing food and building soil was a faraway goal for Kelsey, a teacher at Whittier Elementary School in Long Beach, California. Without the funding it would take to put this garden together this dream seemed almost impossible. Her vision and desire for a garden was there, her enthusiasm was evident. She just could not do this alone. Her dream first became believable when Kelly learned that USAgain shared her vision of seeing gardens at every school. --

This is how USAgain team member Lucy describes what happened:

"When I initially spoke with Kelsey about our program, she expressed how she really wanted to teach the kids about doing more for the planet as well as making better choices. Her wish was to have more of a hands-on learning program. Kelsey and her principal decided to bring in a USAgain TreeMachine and shortly thereafter we began preparations for the school garden."

Partnering with USAgain gave Kelsey the ability to do more for her students and the community. Over the summer we were able to build a garden together with Kelsey and about 50 volunteers of all ages including students, parents, teachers, the principal and USAgain staff. Lowe's generously supported the project by donating most of the materials. A local nursery donated flowering plants that attract beautiful butterflies and hummingbirds. USAgain provided organization, know-how and some additional supplies to create the beautiful 3 bed garden.

Today, the garden is visited daily by several teachers and their students to see the progress and have discussions of what they see. So far, zucchinis, tomatoes and chili peppers have been harvested in their garden. They will grill and share the zucchini for all to taste. After school, parent volunteers come and take turns watering the garden together with students who are eager to help.

Kelsey is hoping to use the garden and the USAgain clothing reuse program to teach students to grow healthy food as well as to make healthy choices and to conserve natural resources.