Year-Round Gardens Serve Educare California at Silicon Valley Community
November 11, 2020
The campus of Educare California at Silicon Valley (ECSV) is thriving with the sounds of birds, sights of butterflies and the aroma of fresh multi-ethnic herbs and vegetables. Over the past year, ECSV staff and students have planted 24 garden beds that support not only the school’s educational approach, but also their mindfulness efforts and fresh produce distribution. Especially comforting during the pandemic, this picturesque setting organically aligns with the belief that at ECSV, each child has the right to grow in a warm, natural environment where they can develop and learn using their own creativity and passions.
Since adding the garden beds, ECSV has seen an increase in the sense of belonging and ownership by staff, has had unique opportunities to provide food-related education to children, staff, and families and has integrated engaging outdoor learning environments as part of their culture and Reggio-inspired approach. Many of the garden beds were installed in the backyards of classrooms to serve as visual dividers and help support stable cohorts during the ongoing pandemic.
As one of two Educare Schools in California, ECSV takes tremendous pride in the land they inhabit. To acknowledge the Muwekma Ohlone people as long-standing custodians of the land on which the campus sits, a large native garden full of Indigenous plants from the Valley was established. They partnered with the California Native Garden Foundation to offer a nature-immersion curriculum with their Family Resource Center. The curriculum, which is taught within the garden, combines Indigenous storytelling and dramatic play, movement and music, art, cooking, science and gardening activities to provide a rich variety of sensory experiences for urban children and their families.
While children care for vegetable seedlings, flowers and succulents, they develop important life skills such as responsibility, cooperation, creativity and patience. Expanding outdoor learning opportunities affords a plethora of benefits to children, including stress reduction, stimulation of scientific observation and language development, encouragement of responsibilities and social skills and introduces children to new varieties of fresh produce which can help build healthy eating habits.
Since 2018, ECSV has partnered with Educare schools in Denver, Milwaukee and Flint in an Acceleration Grant called EMBRACE (Effective Mindfulness Building Responsive and Confident Educators). The Acceleration Grant was possible by funding from the Buffett Early Childhood Fund. EMBRACE is a workforce mindfulness study led by Clayton Early Learning that gives early childhood educators the tools to support their mental health. The native gardens have turned out to be the perfect setting for the mindfulness-related workshops as educators are able to access all five of their senses while in the gardens.
In addition to the growing and harvesting of produce on the campus, through multiple local partnerships, ECSV has been fortunate to consistently distribute fresh produce to families. During the 2019-2020 program year, 355,750 meals were distributed in partnership with Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County (which operates the School’s Family Resource Center) and Second Harvest of Silicon Valley.
In 2021, the School will be partnering with Valley Verde, a local nonprofit that promotes healthy eating while providing food access and micro-entrepreneurship training. Through the partnership, children will receive weekly gardening lessons from their educators and parents and families will attend monthly gardening workshops in addition to receiving multi-ethnic seedlings, organic soil and garden beds of their own.
Educare California at Silicon Valley invites you to follow along as they passionately connect children and families to something so vital to life–fresh produce. Sign up to receive their quarterly newsletter at www.educaresv.org.