Chesnut Changing Children’s Culture, Choices

Organic Garden, Ecology Club Create New Avenues for Interactive Learning

The new Ecology Club at Chesnut Charter Elementary School is surveying families of students at the school to determine their level of interest in organic gardening and environmental issues.

If the club’s new high-energy website is any indication of the survey responses, the final results are likely to show the school community has a passion for organically grown fruit and vegetables and the conservation and preservation of natural resources.

The website is being called "Chesnut for Change" until the club’s kickoff meeting, when students will be tasked with determining the club’s official name. That meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 11.

After that, the Club plans to meet after school on the first Tuesday of each month. Their goals include further developing the organic vegetable garden in the courtyard and initiating school-wide activities that will include the entire student body. The plan is for activities to be multidisciplinary and for the students to contribute to a website blog throughout the year.

The effort is off to a great start. Parent sponsors Angela Renals and Elizabeth Davis will add to that momentum on Wednesday in meetings with the Chesnut Charter Council and the faculty. At those meetings, they will formally introduce themselves, present a proposed program for the entire school year and appeal to the Charter for initial funding.

The program was developed last week in a meeting that included Ecology Club teacher sponsor Christen Ramo, a third grade teacher and Master Gardener, third-grade teacher Stacia Brown, parent sponsors Renals and Davis and parent volunteer and organic garden leader Carissa Malone. The plan is for the proposed program to be supplemented with school-wide activities during the school day and family activities at Clean and Beautiful days. The latter is a parent-led indoor/outdoor effort to help maintain the school facility and grounds.

The proposal is rich in gardening and environmental activities that have been scheduled through May 8, 2012.

Highlights include:

  • Making leaf mold for compost
  • Analyzing sugar consumption
  • Keeping a journal of sugar consumption
  • Analyzing waste
  • Learning to read a planting chart
  • Installing a rain barrel
  • Planning a pollinator party

While organic gardening is a large component of the ecological emphasis at Chesnut – On Wednesday, Ginna Hobgood’s kindergarten class planted cilantro seeds in one of the nine raised organic vegetable beds at the garden with the help of Malone – it is just one of the ways teachers and parents are working together to reach a larger goal. They are teaching the children how choices they make about the products they consume and the waste they generate can affect the environment.

“We want them to understand that when you are good stewards of the community, you are also being a good steward of yourself,” Renals said.

That certainly fits in with Chesnut’s mission to educate the whole child.

The children at Chesnut Charter are fortunate to have parents and teachers who are passionate in their support for the school’s mission. Angela and Carrissa, who has a passion for helping children understand where food comes from, have big dreams to use the organic vegetable garden as one of the ways of achieving the school’s objective.

Their goal is to develop the courtyard into an interactive outdoor learning center. In their vision, they see a muscadine-covered pergola entrance to an organized space of the nine raised organic vegetable beds that have been in place for about four years, new blueberry bushes, berry trellises, more vegetable beds terraced into the sloping courtyard, a worm farm, an aqua farm and a teaching area with tree stump-style seating.

Angela and Carissa are confident a space like this will hold children’s interest because it will allow the kids to search and explore in a garden they have helped to create. They also know they have a long way to go.  But they are determined to get there.

Paula October 03, 2011 at 06:36 PM
Good luck to Chesnut on this program!! Sounds like a great one.


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