Dailard Elementary garden blooming thanks to parents, partners

Posted: Wednesday, June 22nd 2016

Students, parents and staff keep the garden green at Dailard Elementary School.
Students, parents and staff keep the garden green at Dailard Elementary School.

Four years ago, a blacktop lot stood vacant next to Dailard Elementary School in San Carlos. It was at that time when Andrea Loyko, now a first grade teacher, and Gail Broatch, a parent of two students, began to transform the area into a beautiful school garden.

With the help of Transitional Kindergarten parent Diana Bergman, the Parent Teacher Foundation and a large donation of wood chips from the City of San Diego, the garden has grown into a blossoming space for education and enjoyment.

Not only does Dailard host multiple garden beds with irrigation and a green house, students have also planted milkweed throughout the school to attract Monarch butterflies. At last year’s annual clean-up day at Dailard, everyone potted plants around the school which has enhanced the school with pockets of greenery. There is an additional garden for Transitional Kindergarten students with flowers and native plants.

“The kids love it,” said Bergman.

The garden itself has gone through many different changes and seasons; a recent addition is a covered area with study tables for outdoor student learning. The kindergarten students recite poetry in the garden multiple times a week.

“If we can get kindergarteners to sit a table and listen to poetry in the garden, we can get 5th grade, 4th grade and everyone after that in the garden too,” she said.

Every other Wednesday, Dailard's garden club meets, where students hear story about seeds, plants or recycling. Art projects are often incorporated into the lesson as well. Some kids just want to color and not get dirty, and others love to water.

“There’s something for everyone,” said Broatch.

The garden program hopes to incorporate more nutrition education into the garden. In the past, the garden club has used the San Diego Unified’s “No Cook” Cooking Cart to make green smoothies using kale from the garden. Students also pick and eat the harvested produce in the garden or take it home to their families. In the future, the garden club hopes to become Garden to Café certified, which will allow the crops to become part of the school's cafeteria lunch.

The three co-chairs of the club are committed to the sustainability of the garden.

“We’re getting intentional. We track what we’re doing so that at some point when we’re gone we can hand something over so that it’s more sustainable,” said Loyko.

The students themselves are also helping with the sustainability of the garden. Last year, the fourth grade students created short videos explaining the steps of vermicomposting, which are now being watched by current fourth graders. The garden club is also open to younger siblings who will enter Dailard as students in a few years.

“They are already a part of the garden and become like ambassadors,” said Loyko.

“What’s exciting for me, being the parent of a small one, is that the program has been growing,” said Bergman. “I think it’s really evolving at the pace that it’s meant to be. The infrastructure is all in place so that next year the teachers can more regularly use the garden.”

At times the garden harvest is plentiful while other seasons are low, but the co-chairs remain optimistic about the future of the program.

“For us it’s a work in progress,” Loyko said. “We let the students know that you’re going to have as many failures and successes and that’s the way gardening is.”

“Everybody’s learning and that’s what’s fun about it,” said Brotach.

If you know an amazing teacher or garden coordinator who deserves to be featured for their efforts in nutrition education in the classroom or school garden, let us know! Email foodcorps@sandi.net with your recommendations. Sign-up to receive the Farm To School newsletter.

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