Published : Wednesday, March 2, 2016 | 7:40 PM
Members of Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy, a “homegrown” foundation of local philanthropists, have invested $25,000 to sponsor a garden and orchard at Madison Elementary School in Northwest Pasadena. The Conservancy Board of Directors recently joined by Mayor Terry Tornek, Pasadena Educational Foundation officials, and representatives of Pasadena Unified School District for a combination groundbreaking/grand opening, with parents, pupils teachers, and school board members wielding shovels and trowels.
Mayor Tornek called the opening of the garden a “groundbreaking event,” intending his pun in praise of the collaboration between the school district, the venerable schools foundation, and the small, local foundation.
The Madison garden is the second for PCGC, which aims to build ten community gardens in Pasadena in ten years. PCGC is the co-founder and co-funder of the Villa-Parke Community Garden, which provides 30 gardening spaces for underserved families with children living in apartments in Northwest’s ‘food desert’ neighborhoods, as well as a garden for 80 Head Start families to share.
Madison has been an under-performing school, with many low-income immigrant families who qualify for Title 1 benefits, and a low level of parent-participation. It is hoped that the garden will encourage parent-involvement through volunteering at the garden, and through bilingual cooking and nutrition classes held at PUSD’s Healthy Start Family Center, located next door. Gardening – or “applied botany,” as gardeners like to call it – will be part of the pre-science curriculum for all grades at the school, kindergarten through fifth. Madison teachers are being trained in a new California Department of Education-certified classroom curriculum called “Farm to School,” using the garden to engage students in plant science, pre-botany, nutrition, harvesting, recycling, and composting. Students, teachers, and parents will visit the Huntington Library, local community gardens, and local farms.
The main garden measures 40 feet square and includes large plots for each grade level to care for, and to learn from. A separate kindergarten area incorporates and “revives” a 14-foot-long garden bed that was once planted by the Pasadena Junior League. The orchard includes a 36 fruit-bearing trees, including plum, peach, orange, tangerine, lemon, lime, Anna apple, and kiwi. Families and neighbors are invited to pick from the fruit trees, making the Madison garden a resource for the entire neighborhood.
Part of PCGC’s donation includes teak benches and tables to enable students to learn outdoors next to the garden, and event in collaboration with the Madison PTC, including an Earth Day celebration and a Harvest Day celebration. A committee of volunteers from PCGC, headed by Adele Binder and Bea Bennett, already have begun a program of reading aloud to second graders each week from gardening and planting books for children.
‘Nuestra visión es que el jardín será “un jardín de la paz” para todos. Un jardin de la paz por la escuela, y un jardin de la paz para todo la communidad. Para todos ustedes y sus hijos y sus nietos,” said the Conservancy’s President, Eileen White Read, at the opening. (Our vision is that this garden will be a ‘garden of peace’ for everyone. A garden of peace for your school, and a garden of peace for the entire community… for all of you, and your children, and your grandchildren.)
The Madison project is headed for PCGC by Dr. Stephanie Hall and Charise Stewart, a Pasadena attorney. Beth Hansen, President of Mallcraft, is Chair of PCGC.