by Melissa Fontaine
When Jose Caballero challenged his 3rd period Environmental Science students to address an environmental problem in Santa Barbara, his students came up with a delicious solution.
The class idea was to transform part of Santa Barbara High School’s campus into an edible landscape. The objective: provide students with free, healthy, and environmentally friendly snacks by planting fruit and vegetable plants on campus.
Mr. Caballero’s goal for this assignment was for students to learn collaboratively and creatively about environmental issues, rather than solve them. “Its really hard for any single person, let alone a teenager, to solve major environmental problems. But by having to address it, you learn the nuances of an issue.”
The class had less than a month to learn about an issue, create a project, and complete it. The students broke into four workgroups—Production, Marketing, Research and Outreach—to divide up the workload. These groups then reported to Lauren Wolf, Edible Landscape Project President, who bridged communication and helped the project stay on track.
In the planning stages the students chose a location well suited for a landscaping project. They also met with Javier Acosta, SBHS Landscaping Manager, who helped the students devise a plan for maintenance and irrigation.
Once the team decided what they wanted to plant, they needed funds. Wolf and classmates wrote a letter to the PTA, who awarded the students with a small grant. The students used the money to purchase plum and peach trees, a passionfruit vine, and also lavender and mint for groundcover.
The next step was installation. The class volunteered on the weekends to install the plants at two different sites on campus. But students will have to be patient to reap the rewards. The fruit trees and passionfruit vine may take a year or more to produce fruit. The foresight to plant these trees now is what made this project a true gift for future generations of Santa Barbara High School students.
The outcomes of this assignment were manifold. The Edible Landscape gave students the opportunity to make a contribution to their community, practice working in a group, educate peers, and enjoy the outdoors. These activities encourage a culture of environmental stewardship with a focus on healthy eating habits. Yet again, Jose Caballero helps raise a fine crop of students.
For students seeking community service hours or a productive day in the sunshine, summer volunteer opportunities are available. For more information, contact Lauren Wolf, Edible Landscape President, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Melissa Fontaine is Food Literacy Consultant for the Orfalea Foundation’s School Food Initiative.