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School Garden at Madison Elementary

School Garden at Madison Elementary

We believe in Healthy Living garden comes to life

By Mercedes Ochoa, Principal, Madison Elementary and Roxanne Schallberger, Teacher

January , 2018, we transformed a vision into a exciting reality when the Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Program awarded James Madison Elementary a generous grant in the amount of $5000. I, Roxanne Schallberger, a 4th grade teacher at James Madison Elementary had a vision to create the “We Believe in Healthy Living” garden on our campus. Last year, my principal, Ms. Mercedes Ochoa supported me in bringing the UC CalFresh Nutrition Program into my classroom. This program, in addition to a Capstone project, through the leadership classes with the Madera County Office of Education, prompted me to write and apply for the Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Grant. In January, I found out it was awarded to our school and my excitement was immediately infectious as we held a meeting with the district custodians, Madison custodians, Ms. Ochoa, and the UC CalFresh Team. At that precise moment, the “We Believe in Healthy Living” garden came to life!

Our vision for this garden is to bring our community and school together. Just under a year old, this garden has sparked an excitement district wide and indeed inspired other sites to create gardens just like ours! Our vision of “We Believe” is such a powerful message with the simple yet very effective combination of two words. The district’s custodial staff has been so instrumental in helping to create this vision; mostly Curtis Manganaan, Jesus Magdaleno, Robert Baez, and Jose Carranza. Because of these custodians, we have state of the art irrigation, fencing, and a sink. With the grant money, we were able to purchase the redwood materials and asked the woodshop students from Ripperdan HS to build garden beds, benches, and a sign. When those students personally delivered the garden boxes, my 4th grade class was so impressed! They were asking, “Wow, did you build these?” and suddenly the tough front of these HS boys, became softened with a different type of pride as they began taking credit for something positive. We also walked to Madera South HS, where Mrs. Ellis’ Horticulture class educated our students on soil testing, seed planting, and even gave us our first tomato seedlings! Our staff has been supporting our garden and our district by participating in the Fruit Tree 5K Runs, which has given us 4 trees to plant! The wooden sign built by the Ripperdan students was taken over to Madera HS where Mrs. Jaipriya Kaur’s AP Art class beautifully painted, “Every child is a different kind of flower, and together, make this world a beautiful garden.” The Cal Valley Printing and Madera Trophy Shop brought my design to life with an 8×8 foot sign which hangs for all to see that reads, “We Believe in Healthy Living James Madison Elementary School”. Our garden was given a final gift of over a hundred seedlings by the husband of our very own Mrs. Eickholt from the Mazzei Nursery of Fresno and Western Pacific Seeds.

With our first round of harvesting, we held classes in the garden, which al- lowed hands-on instruction with our vi- sual outdoor classroom. My students had so much kindness and pride when they were able to give every kindergartener their very own pumpkin to take home!

Currently, Mr. Lino Gonzalez’s construction class at Madera HS is building our next set of garden beds, our perimeter garden boxes, tables, benches, and podiums. Every grade level will have a garden bed of their own to allow all students at Madison to experience, first hand, an outdoor classroom. Each garden bed will have a podium placed beside it so artwork and informational writing can be displayed when classrooms come through and observe. This would have never been possible without the support of Ms. Ochoa, Angelica Perez with UC CalFresh, the Mazzei Nursery of Fresno and Western Pacific Seeds.

The students truly love being able to help build this garden wherever they can and are excited to eat what they have proudly grown. Our vision of being able to offer a place where teachers can take their students outside and have a hands-on learning, outdoor classroom is happening! I am thankful so many believed in us to bring this garden to James Madison!

We are planning to continue our “We Believe in Healthy Living” as we now be- gin our playground stencil project! Stay tuned!


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