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March 2013--Feature Article

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Bandelier Elementary School: "Before & After" Shots of the Garden

Growing School Gardens, One Patch at a Time

by Nissa Patterson, Growing Gardens Team

Next time you're at a stoplight near an Albuquerque school, take a good look at the school's landscape. Are there neglected corners, a cracked patch of land, a naked courtyard, or a tired but promising perimeter beyond the soccer field? If you are a gardener, maybe you even find yourself sketching out a garden in your mind. Many Albuquerque schools have numerous plots of underutilized land. Did you know that across many of our communities' schools, gardeners have already begun work to transform these spaces?

In late afternoon hours, teachers, parents, young people and community members can be found volunteering their time to create school gardens. There are resources available to support these efforts, too, one of which is the Growing Gardens Team (GGT). The GGT is a group of school staff, parents and community members that provide networking, training and other resources to school staff who want to garden with students. The Growing Gardens Team vision is to help create vibrant school gardens as outdoor classrooms where children are learning through experience about the wonders of the natural world and the cultivation of food.

There is growing interest in creating these "experiential classrooms." The number of APS school gardens has more than doubled from 29 in 2009 to 62 as of February 2013, and that number is increasing--in charter, private and parochial schools, too!Most of these gardens are quite modest, with a small handful of cheery, raised-bed boxes planted with vegetables, but others are large plots, being coaxed back to life with vegetables, fruit trees and compost piles.

The Growing Gardens Team is partnering with the Agriculture Collaborative to further increase our community's awareness of existing school gardens and the resources available to start even more gardens at our schools.For the next few monthly "Local Food Connections" e-newsletters, we will be taking a tour of the Albuquerque area school gardens. Come with us as we tell the story of the outside classroom, from the gritty reality of compacted soils hard enough to bend a shovel, to the triumphs of growing enough vegetables to sell at a local market!

In the meantime, you can learn more about theGrowing Gardens Team online, orThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to join the Albuquerque school gardens list-serv.

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