DAVID YAMAMOTO/SPECIAL TO THE STAR
White, the garden coordinator for Food For Thought, shows examples of
different garden ideas to Ventura County teachers that they can bring
back to their classrooms Friday. The nonprofit organization, The Captain
Planet Foundation, hosted a Learning Garden workshop at the Hansen
Agricultural Trust in Santa Paula.
A lot can be learned from a salad.
That’s what a group of Ventura County teachers discovered Friday at a
workshop at the UC Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center in
Standing around an outdoor table piled with cooking utensils,
vegetables and herbs from an on-site garden, the teachers grated jicama,
chopped cucumbers, scraped kernels from a corn cob and pulled petals
off calendula flowers to fill a salad bowl. Then they listened to
workshop leader Kyla Van Deusen describe how students can learn by
preparing garden-grown food.
Combining the correct amount of oil and vinegar for salad dressing is
a practical way to teach ratios, Van Deusen said. Using adjectives to
describe the taste of unfamiliar vegetables — an exercise in language
arts, she added. Pickling cucumbers can teach chemistry, and examining
how different cultures use vegetables could be a social studies class.
Then there’s the understanding of nutrition students gain by preparing and eating healthful food, Van Deusen said.
“It makes it really fun,” she told the teachers. “There’s lots of
different ways you can make this a part of your instructional time.”
The workshop was part of a two-day teacher-training effort led by the
Atlanta-based Captain Planet Foundation. The nonprofit is helping
establish learning gardens in six Ventura County schools.
About 30 teachers attended Friday’s event, which included sessions on
how to plan, plant and maintain school gardens and how to use gardens
to teach environmental science.
Ventura County schools now participating in the program are E.P.
Foster Elementary, Mound and Sheridan Way Elementary schools in Ventura;
Rio Del Norte Elementary School and Tierra Vista Elementary in Oxnard;
and San Antonio Elementary School in Ojai. One garden has been set up at
Rio Del Norte.
The foundation has run a school gardens program in Metro Atlanta
since 2009. However, now is the first time the organization has taken it
outside the Atlanta area. It is partnering with Food for Thought Ojai
and organic compost company Agromin to set up the gardens locally.
Leesa Carter-Jones, executive director of Captain Planet, said
growing and harvesting food helps teach children about the nature.
“It helps connect them to the natural world and teach them about the
basic resources of life and the systems that support us,” she said. “It
also helps connect them to food origins and develops an early palate for
fruits and vegetables.”
Gena Mathwin, a third-grade teacher at Rio Del Norte, said she has
used the school’s new garden to teach her students about geometry and
“They’re very excited,” Mathwin said. “They want to go out there all the time.”
Gloria Garcia, a fourth-grade teacher at Sheridan Way, said she hoped
her school’s garden would open her students’ eyes to the county’s
“I think it’ll make them more aware,” she said. “There’s so much learning all around them.”