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Central Valley | Education & Student Activism

Taft Plants Learning Seed Montessori Way ~ "Get Growing Stockton"
by khubaka, michael harris
Thursday Oct 4th, 2012 5:55 AM
Prior to Fall of 1996, Taft Botanical Gardens in Stockton, California was designed to help students learn how to learn by themselves through real-life experiences.. Everything is connected and interrelated in the world. Juneteenth at Taft Community Center sparked a new journey toward a renaissance of the Friends of Taft Botanical Gardens. Together, staff, community and regional agriculture industry leaders continue to join the effort. "Get Growing Stockton" is our campaign to educate our community in the heart of the "Greatest Garden in the World" the California Central Valley. Restoration of a viable Youth Employment Program in the 7th largest Agriculture economy in America may reduce crime and provide healthy solutions throughout our community.

Reprinted from Tamma Adamek
September 02, 1996
Stockton Record

Even the dead begonias drooping flowerless in a bed outside Sylvia Ulmers office are a lesson in botany.

Well have the students pull out all the labels that came with them and figure out why they didn’t grow -- maybe they got too much sun, or maybe they just handled them too roughly, the Taft Elementary School Principal said.

They’ll learn.

Taft students will spend the first two months of the year planting flowers, Mexican sage bushes and palm trees in freshly built beds around their campus.

They’ll rescue earthworms from the path of shovels and spades, lay paving stones and learn how to sweep up after themselves.

More than an elaborate landscaping lesson, the new, student-built botanical garden at Taft is an integral part of the Montessori method teachers use to educate students on the Downing Street campus.

Designed to help students learn how to learn by themselves, the Montessori method relies heavily on real-life experiences for students.

Everything is connected and interrelated in this world. Through the curriculum, we teach children their place on Earth, said Susan Turof,
Montessori program specialist.

One place on Earth that Taft students do not belong is a long, narrow flower bed at the rear of the campus. Sprinkled three weeks ago with wild flower seeds, the bed is now speckled with hundreds of 1-inch seedlings.

We have about 500 students here, and no one has stepped on any of these little flowers, Ulmer said. I am very convinced that it is this -- the
respect for their school -- that makes them maintain it and keep it clean.

At the front of the elementary school, Diane Ladd is helping some of the schools youngest students plant small flower bushes in the soft soil of the schools new flower beds.

Crouched on their knees, the 3- and 4-year-olds dig furtively in the soil, squealing when they come across wriggling earthworms.

Along a curving, new walkway through the center of the campus, a group of fifth- and sixth-grade boys helps to plant a shade tree.

I think it looks a lot better now, 10-year-old John Sotello said. This is what children need, Turof said. They need to see the real thing.

But more than a good exercise in the Montessori method of teaching, district officials say the new gardens at Taft are an example of the kind of
collaboration they hope to encourage throughout the district.

High school students hired this summer through the districts Summer Youth Employment program readied the Taft campus for the new gardens by pouring concrete walkways, framing flower beds and installing hundreds of feet of sprinklers.

District facilities workers oversaw the projects and pitched in to get the school ready by the first day. And area businesses donated $30,000 worth of plants, sprinkler pipes, concrete and other supplies.

The principal and school staff have done a good job of beautifying the campus, Superintendent Gary McHenry said.

We want the schools to involve parents, involve the community and collaborate with various agencies.

This is a good example of what happens when that occurs.
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by khubaka, michael harris Thursday Oct 4th, 2012 5:55 AM