Going Back to Nature

(From left) Kathryn Miranda, Davit Ovasapyan and Jocelyn Yu are fifth grade buddies and members of the Garden Club at La Crescenta Elementary School.
Photos by Mary O’KEEFE

La Crescenta Elementary campus is going green with the help of teachers, parents and students.

Students at La Crescenta Elementary School are learning about the birds and the bees – well, at least about the power of pollination.

The Garden Club at La Crescenta Elementary School has a pollinating garden that includes bees and a butterfly garden as well as a bed for growing vegetables. The Garden Club project was the idea of parent Anna Judy De Torre who wanted a way for kids to see how plants developed from seeds to products on the dining table while highlighting how important preserving nature is for the planet.

“I got another parent, Jade Brookbank, involved and [principal Dr. Josephine] Bixler was excited to be onboard,” De Torre said.

On a recent gardening day students from the lower grades were getting a turn at planting and weeding.

“Today we are making a compost bin,” De Torre said. “The kids brought in garbage [to compost].”

The compost container was prepared by master gardener Justin Okin who volunteers to help guide the young gardeners. Okin was trained through the USC Master Gardner program.

Volunteers had been reading books on compost, one called “Compost Stew,” that helped them get ready for their project.

Teacher Susan Savage also volunteered for the after-school program, as did additional parents and community members.

There is a lot more to gardening than just planting and watering; gardeners need to know about feeding the soil, how much sun is needed for particular plants and creating a healthy growing bed for those plants.

“The whole idea is for kids to do the gardening,” Savage said. “They [even] charted the sun.”

But the garden is also a place where kids can learn to work together. For example, the upper grade students had started the garden area then the lower grades continued their work. There are fifth grade buddies who helped guide their younger peers. The students work twice a week on the garden project, which is limited to 20 kids, but there is a waiting list because 55 kids had signed up.

De Torre said the school’s foundation received a small grant to fund the project and donations were made by Los Angeles County Public Works, Ace Hardware, Catalina Paint and the DIY store.

Kathryn Miranda, a fifth grade buddy, had never gardened before.

“[The project] sounded like fun,” Miranda said.

The garden needed a name and fifth grade buddy Jocelyn Yu had a perfect idea.

“We have a Wishing Tree at our school so I thought this could be the Wishing Garden,” Yu said.

Davit Ovasapyan, a fifth grade buddy, knows the importance of gardening but understands it’s not for everyone.

“I am sure not everyone likes gardening as a hobby but it’s fun,” Ovasapyan said. “I personally waited to join … It is very peaceful.”