A message from Rishi Kumar, co-founder of IUE:
Diamond Point Elementary School is located in Diamond Bar, CA and is part of the Pomona School District. Last year, as part of the Institute of Urban Ecology’s outreach program, I designed and helped to install the first school garden in the Pomona District at Diamond Point. Diamond Point serves a very low in-come community, with 80% of students receiving a free or reduced-fee lunch. The original school garden included 4 raised beds, an herb spiral, space for 7 fruit trees and additional in-ground growing space. The school garden has been enjoyed and maintained by an after-school garden club which harvested, trimmed, and planted in the garden. Although I had heard of the wonders of school gardens previously, I was skeptical as to how effective they were in getting children to eat healthy fruit and vegetables and giving children an understanding of nature and ecology. I am no longer skeptical. After attending and helping to teach at several of the garden club meeting, I was consistently amazed at how engaging the garden was to the school kids. They were all asking questions, playing with the plants and bugs and soil, and best of all, they were eating the produce. And they weren’t just eating the tomatoes or tangerines, they were eating leaves of chard, bell peppers, and sorrel! Vegetables that I wouldn’t eat plain they were chomping down on like donuts. When one boy asked me if he could take some chard home to his parents, I had to ask him three times if he was serious. The garden is that powerful. So now I am helping the school to expand the garden from its original 1340 sq ft to a whopping 5640 sq ft. This change will make the garden accessible to many more students than the current garden allows, and some really great features that we are incorporating will make it much more educational than ever before. Please help to support this project by making a donation.
The current garden takes up just a small portion of this large fenced in area were 6th graders enjoy their lunch. The garden expansion will convert this whole space into a garden, while maintaining a lunch area for the 6th graders to eat.
The design goals for the expansion were to:
– maintain the 6th grade lunch space
– create a natural, beautiful environment for the kids to learn about soil, water, plants, food, and ecology
– create a womb space, where children would be surrounded by trees and greenery and feel the comfort of being enveloped by nature
– create an outdoor classroom where classes could be help on cool days
– increase food production of the garden without significantly increasing maintenance work
– create a composting area
These design goals were implemented through the following features
– a 4 table lunch area surrounded by fruiting trees. Deciduous trees to the south will keep the lunch tables warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Ever green trees to the north will provide greenery year round.
– The 3 large herb spirals will create a feeling of enclosure by plants and greenery as students enter the garden and give the garden a magical, natural energy which will attract anyone from outside to come in. The herb spirals will be planted with a variety of drought tolerant herbs and also a diverse mix of wildflowers
– The 2500 gallon water tank will capture water from the roof adjacent to the garden. Overflow from the tank will flow into the orchard area through a network of wood-chip filled channels. The tank will store water for use in the summer season, and be a focus point for the educational topic of water conservation and regeneration.
– The outdoor classroom will be nestled in between the existing garden and the planned orchard area. It will include seating for up to 35 and a whiteboard for instruction. This classroom could be used by the garden club when covering new topics, or enjoyed by any class during regular school hours.
– To increase food production without increasing maintenance work, two features have been planned: the orchard and the perennial vegetable garden. The orchard will include only low-maintenance, regionally appropriate fruit trees such as pomegranate, loquat, guava, persimmon, citrus, fig, and mulberry, which will produce fruit with little additional water or fertilization. The perennial vegetable garden will include only vegetable plants that live longer than 3 years, providing food with little to no maintenance. Much gratitude to Valerie Loew at Mt San Antonio College for the propagation of these rare plants.
– The compost area will include a 3 bin composting system and a vermicompost bin, shaded by citrus fruit trees.
– An outdoor wash station will allow students to wash and cut their harvest right in the garden. We also hope to put in a pizza oven in the future.