By Anne Kallas
February 23, 2015
VENTURA, Calif. - "It's teaching from the roots up."
That's how instructor Deby Tygell described Monday's project of planting a
fruit-tree amphitheater and raised garden beds at Ventura's Academy for Technology
and Leadership at Saticoy (ATLAS).
The fruits of the labor of the fourth-graders who planted apple,
pomegranate, plum and other trees will eventually be added to the cafeteria's
meals or sold at school-sponsored farmers markets, Tygell said.
Crews from Common Vision and Treeco joined the children and Ventura Unified
School District employees in planting 16 fruit trees in a semi-circle near the
school. As they grow, the trees will create a natural amphitheater where
teachers can conduct classes for outdoor learning.
Volunteers from Captain Planet built the raised beds, readying them for soil
and then vegetable and fruit seedlings.
Tygell has been applying for grant money from Common Vision, Treeco, Captain
Planet and other organizations as part of a comprehensive project to teach the
students about horticulture and farming.
"We have a safe and healthy schools program here at Ventura Unified School
District where we teach sustainability, how to eat local food, and to respect
where food is processed," Tygell explained. "We live in the area where Cesar
Chavez was promoting service-based learning. This project teaches students
social responsibility. We look at water use and other aspects of farming."
David White, from Food for Thought of Ojai, also works with Captain Planet,
an Atlanta-based group that allows teachers to substitute "engaging hands-on
lessons in the garden for textbook-driven lessons in the classroom."
Common Vision, a California-based program, travels around the state in a
painted bus, planting and maintaining fruit trees at 205 schools, according to
Leo Buc, executive director.
is a low-maintenance mode that's working really well," Buc said.
"Ventura County's growing climate gives us a tremendous opportunity for
up the farm-to-school contacts."
Also helping with the project was local soil amendment producer Agromin,
which donated compost to be mixed with the soil, and Treeco, which donated two
cherry trees and a banana tree.
Treeco owner Edwin Sowik said he has been planting trees on the large campus
for years, when the school was known as Saticoy School. He pointed to a large
oak that his son grew from an acorn; it was moved from an area church years
ATLAS Principal Jennifer Dustin said the project dovetails perfectly into
the magnet school's mission of emphasizing technology and promoting leadership.
"Our goal is to find the leader in every child," she said. "Some children
are leaders in gardening, dancing, cooking and music. Others are leaders in
public speaking and organizing."
She said the idea of selling some of the excess produce in a small farmers
market would offer teaching opportunities in sales, marketing, math and other
As one of Common Vision's instructors, Tom Walther, of Portland, explained
to a small group of fourth-graders how apple trees are grafted using heartier
root stock to support tastier apple-bearing branches. The students listened as
they mixed compost into topsoil, before planting the tree.
Fourth-grader Jon Carrera, 9, explained that he has helped his family plant
trees in their yard. "I knew that it would be a lot of work," he said.
Madison Jourdain, 9, another fourth-grader, said she enjoyed working
outside. "It think it's cool," she said. "We get to use dirt and get our hands
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Labels: ATLAS, Captain Planet, organic soil, planting fruit trees, Saticoy, school gardens, Ventura County