John Burroughs High School Independent Living Skills program embarked on an exciting venture this year with the JBHS Cultivators of Growth Garden Project. Thanks to the CTA’s Institute for Teaching grant, the program received the necessary funding to enhance its curriculum and create a special project.
Erin Berich, one of the Independent Living Skills teachers, shared her journey of discovery, stating, “Students in our Independent Living Skills program have a variety of unique needs resulting from diagnoses such as autism, intellectual disabilities, and cerebral palsy. As one of the Independent Living Skills teachers, I learned about the CTA IFT grant through an email from our district.
After some research, I brainstormed some ideas of how we could improve our program with additional funding for a special project. For the last several years, our students have participated in some type of planting activity during summer school, and it’s always been a big hit with the students. I thought a classroom garden would be a good way to expand on that experience as well as increase our program’s visibility on campus in a positive way.”
Throughout the project, students experienced firsthand the transformative effects of tending to the garden. Erin Berich reflected on the impact, saying, “I think the biggest impact on the students has been their ability to see the cause and effect changes that happen in the garden throughout the planting, growing, and harvesting process. We’ve even been able to use some of our harvest in our classroom cooking lessons. When students were polled on their favorite gardening activities from the year, the most popular activities were watering and harvesting, with shopping for supplies and cooking with our ingredients in second place.”
The garden project encompassed a range of crops suitable for Southern California’s climate. Berich shared the diversity of plants they cultivated, explaining, “In the fall, students learned about various crops that are successfully grown in Southern California. In the spring, we planted tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes, zucchini, basil, cilantro, onions, mint, rosemary, strawberries, and blueberries.”
The JBHS Cultivators of Growth Garden Project has provided students in the Independent Living Skills program with an immersive and rewarding learning experience. They have gained valuable skills, witnessed the wonders of cause and effect, and enjoyed the fruits of their labor in the form of fresh ingredients for cooking lessons.
The project not only elevated the program’s visibility on campus but also fostered a deeper appreciation for sustainability and horticulture within the community. With the school year coming to a close, the JBHS Cultivators of Growth Garden Project stands as a testament to the power of hands-on education and the enduring impact it can have on students’ lives.