Article by Rachel LaFranchi
Photo by Two Rock Union School District
Published January 1, 2016
|Teachers Pat Godoski, left, and Jan Brogan have taken over the garden and are developing curriculum that teaches students about agriculture.|
The Two Rock Elementary School’s 158 students have two teachers and one principal who are devoted to teaching students about agriculture. Pat Godoski is the school’s fifth grade teacher and Jan Brogan teaches sixth grade.
Brogan and Godoski have recently started managing the garden in addition to their teaching duties with support from the school’s principal, Toni Beal. Previous to their involvement, the garden was managed by the librarian and other school staff.
Sixty-five percent of students come from the Coast Guard Training Center just up the road while the remaining students are from farming families from the surrounding Two Rock area.
The garden aims to teach students about stewardship and the environment, but Brogan says they are hoping to expand the garden to a farm to table program in the near future.
They have recently overhauled their garden, putting in 8 raised beds with funds from a grant given to them by the Petaluma Educational Foundation. This fall, the school used all eight beds to grow pumpkins and had enough for each student to take one home as well as leftovers to make fresh pumpkin pies which were sold at their annual fundraiser.
While their pumpkins were a success, the teachers realize that the optimal growing season is in the summer when students aren’t in school. They are working to develop garden curriculum that is educational and valuable to the students while they are in school.
“The best growing season is when students aren’t here,” said Godoski. “If students can’t see the end point, it defeats the purpose. All of us [teachers] have gardens at home.”
Brogan said the garden ties into curriculum that students are leaning in class such as Native American studies and how the natives took care of the land. Above that, she believes it’s important that students understand how vital agriculture is.
“Students need to know they have responsibility to preserve land that produces food,” said Brogan. “It’s important for us to teach kids what agriculture is all about and that they can participate in preserving it.”
Another recent edition to their garden is nine fruit trees. The school has planted both apple and pear trees, and the teachers are excited to share the fruit when the trees start to produce. The trees currently reach the garden’s fence, but the program is seeking additional funding to expand the orchard and add an additional nine trees.
Brogan’s class will also learn about agriculture through three different field trips to dairies of different sizes. Brogan calls the project “Growing an Ice Cream Cone” as the culminating activity is to make ice cream with milk from local dairies.
Principal Beal said they are continuing to improve the garden and working towards their end goal of a farm to table program. They have successfully partnered with volunteers from the Coast Guard Training Center and they are still expanding their garden. They hope to share their experience with other local schools and partner with different organizations to accomplish more in the future.