As schools across the nation continue to increase the number of learning opportunities afforded to students, one local elementary school is attempting to sprout creative ideas through the use of an on-campus garden.

In recent years, Will Rogers Community Learning School has become known in SMMUSD as a school where students can explore fields like science, technology, engineering and math in their everyday academic activities, but thanks to school leaders and PTA participants, Will Rogers’ students have also been able to further their academic pursuits by working in Mildred’s Garden.

At a recent garden party hosted at the school, parent Jodi Strock said the garden is important because it allows students and the wider community a wide range of learning opportunities.

“This is something that’s important so I really want our community to be able to understand and going even further — I thought the kids should be involved,” Strock said during the event, before sharing a story about her grandpa and how his school’s garden benefited him during World War II.

Filmmaker, chef and co-founder of Common Tables Creative Oliver English was also in attendance for the garden party, where he shared the story of his company and why he finds it necessary for children to participate in gardening activities like the ones offered at Will Rogers.

Having spent the last four years interviewing farmers, chefs, climate scientists, policymakers and educators around the world about the future of food, English said he’s heard about issues related to soil degradation and possible health epidemics. And while he admitted that not everybody was as optimistic as he was when discussing the topic, but English and his peers were not deterred from starting a company that specializes in crafting stories about the power and future of food.

“Luckily, we know what the solutions look like (and) we know the solutions to agricultural problems and the solutions to health are deeply interconnected,” English said, describing how a few simple changes to one’s daily life will help the planet and attendees in a multitude of ways.

One of the most important changes to make, according to English, is to consider how a seed turns into a plant and how that plant is then crafted into something we eat.

“Our consumption has an impact on the environment around us,” so being aware of how your habits affect what’s planted is important, English said, listing the remaining changes residents can make to lessen their environmental impact.

English acknowledged that supporting local and organic farmers isn’t always a cheap endeavor, “but when we can, we should because supporting local farmers is a huge part of the solution (since) they are not part of the system that is currently destroying our soils… they are part of a system that is helping to restore healthy food.”

English said residents can start by researching what foods are seasonal during a given time of year and supporting those who are farming the produce.

“When we’re supporting food that is seasonal, we’re making sure that we’re not transporting food far distances around the world,” nor is anybody causing pollution, English said. “We should also remember to generally put plants at the center of your plate because we know meat requires lots of resources like soil and water. So by putting plants at the center of your plate, we are greatly reducing our impact.”

English added tip number four was perhaps the most important piece of information he’d offer during the garden party — and that was parents should cook and eat with their children.

“Getting your kids connected to food is a multi-stage process and it starts in the garden, in your home, in your kitchen,” English said. “I know it’s not going to be every night, but when you can, give them something to peel, give them something to chop and somehow engage in that process as a family.”

And once you’ve enjoyed the family dinner — compost, English said. “And this is incredibly important because it goes back to the idea of diverting waste so it will become healthy soil again,” which can be used to feed the next generation.

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  1. Wonderful for WRLC to enhance this vitally important aspect of their curriculum! This is also at the core of Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard Project and this effort deserves widespread community support for the countless benefits it affords us here in SM and beyond as well as into the future. Children changing and saving the world, yes!

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