By Faith Oak and Eden Ovadia
On September 13, the Granada Hills Charter High School (GHC) Special Education Program received a $1200 grant from the California Fertilizer Foundation (CFF), which will be used to expand the school’s gardens and grow produce alongside GHC cooking and science classes.
Prior to receiving this grant, the garden was not a major part of the Special Education Program, having been used solely for science experiments in which students would plant and harvest herbs to observe under microscopes.
The Special Education Program discovered the grant opportunity in January and submitted its application in May. Special Day Placement program (SDP2) co-teacher Jenna Brummett was one of the teachers involved in the garden grant.
According to Brummett, as part of the application process, they first had to introduce the current program. They also described their focus and how they would use the grant to incorporate gardening into a functioning site for the academic benefit of its students.
Within the Special Education Program, there are multiple services and programs designated to meet the needs of students with various levels of educational and social needs, including the Resource Program/Learning Center Model, Special Day Classes and Co-Teaching, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program, and Severe/Moderate/Mild SPD2 Program. SDP2, which Brummett is a part of, is a co-teaching model classroom meant for students who require the highest level of support. Its curriculum is catered toward the development of both academic and life skills, giving students opportunities to work on campus and take electives with non-disabled peers.
With new garden supplies bought using the grant, students will now be able to grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs in the garden. Special Education Program teachers also hope that having students work in the garden will help fuel their academic and personal development.
“There is so much that can be learned from gardening, like life cycles and plants, the functions of fertilizer, basic biology, how things grow, photosynthesis, and more. And the functional aspect is mainly understanding farm to fork, or where your food comes from, and being able to assemble and make something you can eat,” Brummett said.
The Special Education students will benefit from the garden because it will allow them to connect more to the food they eat and help them to develop healthier eating habits, as well as providing them with the opportunity to develop a skill that could potentially become a vocational interest.
Students are enthusiastic about being able to take part in the grant, from using their new rakes and shovels for gardening to even eating the cupcakes they received at the ceremony where they received the check.
“I was excited for the check. I’m excited to be making some vegetables and plants,” junior Juan Rea said.
Additionally, the Special Education Program hopes that the garden will eventually be integrated into the curricula of other GHC programs so that more students have the opportunity to plant, maintain, and harvest plants in the garden. Some of the teachers involved have even discussed hosting a farmers’ market in the future.
In moving to expand its garden, GHC has joined a growing group of California schools who have started to do so. CFF has sought to fuel this trend by providing grants like this one to more than 250 schools in California since 1999.
By offering California schools the educational materials and funds needed to establish and maintain their own campus gardens, CFF hopes to “enhance awareness and understanding of plant nutrients and agriculture in California,” according to its website.
Thanks to this grant, the Special Education Program can now maintain a more substantial garden that will benefit many of its students beyond the classroom.
“We work together to provide an inclusive environment for our students so that we can address their academic needs and their functional life skills. The program provides opportunities for students with moderate to severe cognitive challenges to take classes in general education. We are committed to ensuring our students’ connection to their peers as well as their community,” Brummett said.