"Children who grow vegetables in school gardens are more willing to taste and eat vegetables than children who do not have access to school gardens. The willingness is a critical step in developing healthy eating patterns and is especially important today in light of the current epidemic of childhood obesity."
-California Department of Education, 2002
Welcome to the Red Hill Learning Garden
The Red Hill Learning Garden is a wonderful place to provide hands-on learning experiences.
The Red Hill Learning Garden is a living classroom run entirely by volunteers to educate over 530 kindergarten through fifth grade students about organic gardening. This garden is located on the campus of Red Hill Elementary School located in the foothills of Lemon Heights in North Tustin, within the Tustin Unified School District, in Southern California. The picket-fenced garden is accessible to anyone on the school campus and it includes 18 classroom boxes in seven raised beds, grade-level specialty gardens, 11 fruit trees, a Farmer’s Market shed, a garden supply shed, compost bins, worm boxes, greenhouse, and an in-ground irrigation system. It has developed over several years through an annual budget provided from the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), labor contributions from Red Hill families, and contributions from the community.
Monthly Classroom Garden Visits The teachers bring their classroom to the garden once a month with a major planting in the fall and spring. The garden curriculum reflects State learning standards for each grade, weaving special activities into each hour-long visit. The students are involved in every step of the process from weeding, planting, maintaining, harvesting, cleaning, eating, and composting.
Special Activities The Harvest Party allows each classroom to harvest their produce in January as a salad and eat it on the same day. The students take responsibility for the tasks required to put on each classroom's harvest party.
The Farmer’s Market is held in May during Open House. Plants propagated by the students are sold by 5th graders along with harvested vegetables, seeds, flowers, and fresh squeezed lemonade.
Fifth graders sell pumpkins at Back-to-School Night. A pumpkin patch is maintained over the summer to provide pumpkins for sale in September at Back-to-School Night. The two fundraisers – Pumpkin Sale and Farmers Market – help defray 5th grade graduation ceremony expenses. The fifth graders really enjoy this privilege and, in the process, learn about agricultural consumerism.
Gardening programs instill appreciation for nature that children will carry into adulthood. Shown above are before and after photos of the classroom boxes.
Benefits of the Red Hill Learning Garden
- Math, science, geography, and social studies curriculum are integrated in the garden
- Real world data collection, plant science, and journaling skills are developed
- Confidence building and hands-on learning skills are enhanced
- Scientific inquiry skills are practiced
- Students work with peers and adults in a cooperative environment
- Students learn good land stewardship and organic gardening principles
- The nexus between gardening and food is conveyed
- Wildlife habitat is provided for local and migratory birds and butterflies and other insects
- Waste reduction and soil benefits of composting and vermicomposting are taught
- Exposure to growing vegetables usually leads to better nutrition and health
- Students learn that physical work can be fun
- The natural world is experienced through sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste