• Monte Vista Special Needs Students Learn Joys of Gardening - Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at

  •             A special needs class at Monte Vista Middle School in Camarillo is experiencing the joys of gardening.

                A class of 12 autistic students in sixth through eighth grade is learning about planting, growing and harvesting a variety of vegetables under the tutelage of Dianne Polen, the school's Life Lab and campus beautification coordinator.

                "I love teaching students about gardening and how important it is in their lives to learn to eat healthy and how simple it is to grow their own fresh veggies and fruit," says Polen. "It touches my heart to see how excited they are to work in their garden." 

                The school garden consists of six garden boxes. The students are growing varieties of lettuce, purple and green cabbage, cauliflower, onions, carrots and broccoli. These vegetables will be picked throughout fall and winter with a new crop for spring to be planted soon. The students compare the taste of fresh grown vegetables and vegetables from the store, plus they get to take the fresh vegetables home with them. They also learn about butterflies and the value of good bugs such as ladybugs and butterflies.

                Polen works with the students once a week. "It's always fun to watch students stop by the garden at lunch or between classes to check its progress," says Polen. 

                "The garden fosters all types of learning including art, science and math," says the students' teacher Mary Postal. "There are so many ways to use the garden as a learning tool in addition to the caretaking and responsibility aspect. For this special class, the garden is used in therapeutic ways as well. When a student is having a hard time in class, we just go outside, water the garden and refocus. For a teacher, it's been wonderful.”

                Agromin, the county's green material recycler and maker of organic potting soil and compost, donated soil amendments for the garden.

                "We've found that students get tremendous satisfaction and a great sense of accomplishment when they are responsible for a school garden," says Bill Camarillo, Agromin CEO. "It may seem to be a simple task, but the lessons they learn--from how to eat healthy to how to follow through on a project--can stay with them all their lives."

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