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Research Newsletter-Spring/Summer 2012

Candace Russo, M.S.


Candace Russo, M.S.
Garden Manager
Healthy Youth Program

The Spartan Garden: Soil to Seed to Plate

The Healthy Youth Program (HYP) has partnered with Corvallis High School (CHS) to develop a school garden (named the Spartan Garden, after the CHS mascot) that includes an outdoor classroom, as well as produce preparation and cooking spaces. The Spartan Garden provides place-based learning, where students explore where their food comes from, how to grow their own food, the value of eating healthful foods, and the link between a healthy environment and a healthy lifestyle.

Following a unique model, the Spartan Garden is primarily student-run, as high-school youth are capable of engaging in all aspects of the garden, from “soil to seed to plate.” Innovative design features allow multiple disciplines to use the garden for science, health, nutrition, cooking, environmental sustainability, art, woodworking, and more. The garden design includes a compost observatory, vegetable washing station with water catchment, cooking tables, cob oven, rain garden, living fence, and culinary herb spiral.

Students in each of the three horticulture classes at CHS are committed to preparing and maintaining the garden throughout the school year. This is a natural fit, as all garden activities provide “real-world” experiences directly related to learning objectives for this discipline. So far, students have prepared the soil by removing debris, adding compost, forming raised mounds, spreading leaves, and planting cover-crops to protect the soil from winter rains. The horticulture students have determined their garden’s soil type, tested for earthworm abundance, measured soil pH and nutrient levels, and started seeds for nutritious cool-season crops, including kale, greens, leeks, and broccoli.

Beyond the horticulture classes, many other disciplines are incorporating the Spartan Garden into their curricula. Foods and culinary arts students plan to harvest produce to use in their spring cooking classes; they will also be working with the Corvallis Environmental Center (CEC), a community partner, to offer “tasting tables” for their peers and teachers, as part of the Edible Corvallis Initiative. Spearheaded by the CEC, the “Tasting Tables” project encourages healthful eating by showcasing seasonal food from local farms and provides tastings to schools throughout the Corvallis School District. “Tasting Tables” will be brought to CHS (currently they are only offered at the elementary and middle schools), and the Spartan Garden will become one of the highlighted “farms.”

Additionally, woodworking students have built a garden tool shed, which will also serve as a canvas for art students to create a garden mural. Work has also started on the vegetable washing station, which will allow food harvested from the garden to be cleaned on-site and made available to the school cafeteria, as well as for students to cook and eat themselves. Woodworking students are building the washing station, and ceramics students plan to create tiles for the surface of the table tops. Ceramics students will also create plates and bowls for the cooking area, host a clothesline art show in the garden, and make pots for “Thank You Herbs,” a donation project to build community support around the school.

The possibilities for curricular connections are endless, as is evidenced by the diversity of teachers that have expressed interest in the Spartan Garden project. I will be working with these teachers to help deliver lessons and develop and implement further ideas.

Spartan Garden Layout

Chefs in the Garden

The HYP is offering Chefs in the Garden, a month of summer day camps in August. Third through fifth graders will participate in gardening, nutrition, outdoor healthful cooking, environmental science, and physical fitness activities, using the Spartan Garden as the venue for these explorations. Themes for each of the four weeks are “Secrets of the Soil,” “Garden Creatures,” “Backyard Science,” and “Adventurous Artists.” Each day, camp goers will harvest food from the garden to cook and eat lunch together, participate in engaging activities surrounding the weekly theme, and help with fun garden tasks, which will, in turn, keep the Spartan Garden vibrant throughout the summer.

Special thanks to the following donors who made the Healthy Youth Program possible:
Title Sponsor: USANA Health Sciences, Inc., Salt Lake City, UT
Other Sponsors: Joan Facey, Atlanta, GA
Starker Forests, Corvallis, OR
Tim and Starleen Wood Foundation

Last updated May 2012