Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Taft Elementary Unveils Outdoor Learning Center

The students, staff, parents, and community at W.H. Taft Elementary School in Boise celebrated the opening of the W. H. Taft Outdoor Learning Center and Community Garden today.

In Spring 2009, W. H. Taft students, staff, and parents embarked on a partnership with the Boise Urban Garden School (BUGS) to transform a quadrant of the playground into a school-based garden and outdoor learning center.  This center will be an outside classroom for hands-on learning that embraces the state curriculum standards and offers opportunities for students to intimately explore the connection between food and health.  The garden will provide fresh organic food to the Taft school community and promote connections to the natural world that will foster both personal responsibility and stewardship.

Three years ago, Taft had two raised-bed plots and a small composting area, both of which were started and maintained by the after school Eco-Club. Beginning in the fall of 2009, with strong support and involvement by the BUGS consultants, Taft began the process of developing a permanent garden site and garden design. The school obtained private donations to cover the costs of irrigation and fencing, solicited volunteers to build twenty-four 4X4 square foot boxes, fenced the 7,000 plus square foot area, appointed a community advisory board, and provided students and teachers with classroom-based lessons.  The classroom-based lessons included topics such as compost and soil, beneficial insects, pest management, seeds and plants, and companion planting. 

Community participation has been the key to bringing this garden and learning center to life. Community partners include: Franz Witte, Action for Healthy Kids of the Ada County Health Department, Idaho Women’s Charitable Foundation, Eagle Scouts, Sunrise Rotary Club, and Noel Weber of Classic Signs.

Taft Elementary was also one of 78 Idaho schools to be awarded with a Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grant from the Idaho State Department of Education this week.  Taft Elementary has had a Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program in place for at least a year.

~ Melissa M.

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