Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Grow Green Classroom at Becker Elementary School

Hopefully, today was my last day to substitute at the Green Classroom. It's not the kids, 5th graders from Title 1 schools all over Austin, I love the's just that that chapter in my life finished two years ago and the sound of my own voice repeating the obvious has simply lost it's charm. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed helping out this year and would like to share some of the idea's behind this project and perhaps encourage someone else to step up and help out. First off, the program is grant supported and was awarded to the Watershed Department of Austin. It's a 3 day "Earth Camp" that covers the cost of field trip, education, supplies, T-shirts for the kiddo's and a day at the Green Classroom after learning about the aquifers, clean water ecology and the nitrogen cycle. It supports their science curriculum and the kids love it.

Welcome to the Green Classroom across the street from Becker Elementary, on the Bouldin Creek you know your Watershed? That's a question we always ask the kids of their home school and their homes.
Where Sunflowers grow wild!

The pond has papyrus, Aloe, yarrow, among others as well as minnows, mosquito fish and a few frogs. It's maintained by the Pond Society and a few civic minded neighbors.

Two of the beds belong to Earth Camp and the rest are kept by various classes at Becker.
The garden was founded in 1989 and teaches children about the 4 major aspects of the environment: water, waste, energy and sustainable agriculture. I've tried on several occasions to find out who and how the beautifully sculptured walls, pond and herb garden were built...if you know, please comment!

Today I noticed that the starlings have taken over the Purple Martin Habitat! Oh no!

There are two 1,000 gallon water collection tanks that the kids use to water the gardens.

And, one of the best compost plans I've seen! The Soup Peddler brings their leftover veggie matter in the big plastic buckets so the entire garden is made from organic matter!

Isn't it magical? I mean's so Dr. Seussian and the kids are really drawn in.

I didn't get photos of the's a typical 1940's bungalow but they've got tons of city models that help explain water flow when it rains...really cool stuff!

They use colored water to demonstrate the effects of fertilizers and the time they leave, we've educated an army of organic gardeners!

The signs and artwork could use some sprucing up. The sign on the carrot reads: "This is a Chemical Free Garden." The garden-teacher position is a set 4 station curriculum where the kids compost, plant a seed, collect and investigate insects and garden.

I'll leave you with one last image...the mandala of the artichoke plant! So perfect. Anyway, I know they'll need helpers for the next school season...retired teachers, this is a nice way to stay in touch, college students...the pay isn't shabby and it's only 20 hrs a week. The city may be on a hiring freeze, but this is grant money and children can't teach themselves. Contact Susan Wall at the Watershed Dept. of Austin if interested.
Happy Gardening!


Hedrich said...

Hey, Cheryl:

You describe the structure in that one picture as "seussian" but what came to my mind was Gaudi. If you've seen Vicki Cristina Barcelona, you will see a lot of his architecture. Here's a quick link to a photo:

catmint said...

wow! What an impressive program. the compost heap is brilliant (my wooden one is falling apart, and that one seems simple and easy to make). i love the way the water tank is painted, so creative and fun, and the mandala is perfect. I keep meaning to plant artichokes, because i don't think they need extra water once established and because they are beautiful to look at and to eat. And the art - seussian / gaudian and so imaginative. It must have been fun to teach there, but when it's time, I understand you need to move on. Thanks for a great post. cheers, catmint

ConsciousGardener said...

Hedrich I've got a degree in Art History/Studio Art...Gaudi is on the money...Seussian is for kids!

Cindy, My Corner of Katy said...

I love those walls ... and what a cool learning experience for the kids!

That artichoke photograph would be worth printing out & hanging: very artistic shot!

knittnkitten said...

That is so wonderful!
I didn't grock you had been an art teacher, I'm married to one here in CA.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Cheryl, for such a wonderful write-up and pictures from the Green classroom. Can I use some of your pics for the Becker Green Classroom website? For those that are interested in volunteering for Becker Green Classroom classes go to
Earth Camp has no openings presently

Dianne said...

Love your program. I've started a school garden at my kids small Montessori school and they absolutely love it! We chronicle our escapades on my blog:

If you don't mind, I'd like to use some of your ideas for inspiration.