Garden Updates at CHS

Posted by on Jul 23, 2019 | Comments Off on Garden Updates at CHS

Garden Updates at CHS

As we are bringing our summer programming with our amazing youth interns to a close, I’d love to take a minute and reflect on the past few months here at Charlottesville High School and give you a peek into what is in store for the 2019-2020 school year!

Two of the most notable differences you’ll see if you visit the CHS garden are the wildflower plantings as well as the new expansions we are adding to our garden. We started smothering the grass (a much better way to get rid of grass than spraying chemicals or breaking your back with a tiller in this Virginia red clay we have here) over the winter in several areas between the building and the garden. We got strange looks when we rolled out the black tarps, but we knew it would be worth the wait. Later in the Spring, we pulled back the tarps, removed any grass remaining and planted our wildflower seeds.

Now we have an abundance of zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, forget-me-nots, baby’s breath, coneflowers and more! The bees, butterflies, and birds could not be happier and neither could we! Not only will we have a more welcoming and calming garden, but we will have a plethora of cut flowers for the building. One of the planting areas also houses a memorial for a beloved CHS teacher who passed away last year.

After the tarps were moved off the wildflower planting areas, we moved them over to the grass surrounding the garden. We measured off and staked out 2400 square feet of new growing space to add to our garden which will more than double the area we now have! Again, we got more strange looks when the tarps were spread out, but when we pulled them off in early July and found all dead grass, we knew it was worth the wait! With the help of an amazing group of 45 middle school students and counselors from Camp Dogwood, we were able to spread 12 cubic yards of compost on the area and get the fencing started around our new beds. This new space is going to help us produce a tremendous amount of food for our school community in the coming years. Stay tuned to see how it turns out!

Moving ahead into this next school year, there are two major developments at the top of my list. First, here at CHS,

we are moving from two Urban Farming courses and one Garden to Market course to six garden-based courses as well as partnering in garden-based therapy programs with our school counselors! This new growth in interest and enrollment is the main reason we decided to expand this year as we knew we would have the student help to make it successful. The Urban Farming course is not only a hands-on farming course, but it is taught through the lens of entrepreneurship and it will be exciting to see what these future entrepreneurs will dream up and make happen this year.

The biggest project we will undertake this year, however, will have us working alongside the school’s engineering, English, ESL, science, and history departments of CHS. At the end of the year, we were awarded a $5000 grant from the Shannon Foundation for our project entitled “Harnessing the Wind” which is inspired by the incredible book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. We are developing a cross-curricular project that will incorporate English and ESL classes diving into the book, Environmental Science classes measuring wind speeds and studying renewable energy, and history classes learning about historical and cultural themes from Southeast Africa where the book takes place. The Engineering classes will then take the wind speed data and will research, design, build, and install our very own wind turbine that will power the newly upgraded ventilation and irrigation for our hoop house in the garden and will also supply electricity for our chicken coop. This will certainly be an exciting project that will help us in one of our core strategies of cultivating sustainability.

 

 

We also are making strides in the important work of providing healthy school food for our students. My Urban Farming classes were able to meet with the nutrition director for Charlottesville City Schools a few times last year to taste test new food options as well as provide feedback about their feelings about the school lunch program. These conversations have helped inform the process for our summer food justice interns to create an action plan to help make our school food as healthy as it can be. The interns are eager to share their

plan with school and city leadership in the coming weeks and months.

Last year was an incredible year of growth for us and we are eager for the start of the new year to see our youth engage in some amazing work. Thank you so much for following along and supporting this adventure!