A History of Lakeshore’s Gardening Program

Martha Luna, Lakeshore’s Gardening consultant for grades K, 1, and Special Day Classes and Naturalist at Camp Mather, shares how the Gardening program came about.

It truly was a grassroots project. We began teaching out of a tent — cold and challenging, but fun.

I met and began gardening with Jean Butler while our children were in Kindergarten class together. Now our children are in 11th grade. Jean was trying to reestablish an abandoned garden where the Learning Garden is currently located, below the Kinder yard. Previously, a group of Lakeshore teachers had tried to replicate a successful garden program at Rooftop School. They received a grant and built a small garden.

When Jean and I came on the scene, the original idea for this Lakeshore garden had been long abandoned. The soil was like concrete and at best only the weeds were brave enough to grow. The original idea by the teaching staff was to have the rectangular garden beds split 50/50, designated to classrooms who would maintain their garden spot. However, without knowledge of what can grow and how, not to mention a regular watering schedule, the garden failed. They simply did not have the time and knowledge to do maintenance.

My career began at this point with Jean, pulling weeds. As we watered and cared – children began to follow us around and ask “Can we help? Can we water? Is this a fossil (in a little hand, a chunk of asphalt with gravel)?. We knew we had science garden — not a nutrition garden as Michelle Obama’s White House garden — but a science garden. We started out volunteering gardening time in our kids’ classrooms. Very soon the PTA sponsored the Gardening Program and within ten years we built what we have today for every student in all K-fifth grades, including Special Day.

We have evolved to a Environmental Science program. This concept came to me with our Special Day class. I noticed that Lowell High School’s Special Ed class had broken ground on the sunny side of campus to start a garden, behind bleachers in the football/track field. The idea came from Lowell’s Special Ed teacher to introduce vocational job opportunities. I arranged a field trip with Lowell’s Special Ed class and our Special Day 4/5th grade class.

As my class came through the garden, Lowell’s Environmental Science instructor (not from Special Ed) had her class in the garden at the same time. To emphasize a lesson we’d been learning at Lakeshore, I mentioned to the instructor, “Environmental” sounds like a Latin word and the instructor eagerly replied “Yes! ‘Environment’ is the meaning of everything, and ‘science’ is to study; therefore, it is the ‘study of everything.’ ” I knew everything we were learning and doing was on track at Lakeshore.

Now we study everything: our environment, with plants, bugs, and weather.