• Garden History

    Posted by GCC Cougars on 3/18/2019 6:00:00 AM

    The History of the Outdoor Learning Center Gardens at George C. Clarke Elementary

    In 2005, our teachers Kelly Leatherman, Rita Castillo, Sharon Peak and Susan Brown helped create a 5 year partnership with the group Real School Gardens. Our principal was Anthony Martinez and assistant principal was Alice Galban. Real School Gardens was an initiative supported by the Richard Rainwater Foundation. Our campus was one of that organizations first school gardens. Richard Rainwater had a personal connection to George C. Clarke in that he attended George C. Clarke and had lived in the Clarke neighborhood.

    In 2005, our school had four portable classrooms where our current outdoor garden is located and the first garden was located on the east side of those portables. In the years of 2005 until 2009, Mrs. Leatherman and the 5th grade classes used the gardens to grow plants that they would use to make salsas.

    In 2009, the portable buildings were removed and the 5 year grant from Real School Gardens ended in 2010. Our campus moved from being supported through a grant to joining a yearly membership with Real School Gardens. The George C. Clarke and Real School Garden partnership endured for a total of 11 years. Our campus received educational support as well as material support for assisting our campus with maintaining our gardens.

    In 2010, Mr. Sipma, teacher, became the Garden Coordinator. The Parent Teacher Association agreed to fund the expansion of our outdoor learning gardens. The financial support allowed Mr. Sipma and his Garden Club to build a new 50 foot by 50 foot garden area where portable buildings used to be located. Seven additional raised bed gardens were built. A covered pavilion with seating was also built and installed by Michelle Sterner, PTA treasurer and teacher and her husband. Mr. Sipma’s garden club and volunteers also installed the fruit orchard as well.

    The expansion of the garden allowed our campus to have one individual garden for each homeroom teacher. In the year 2010, Real School Gardens and BRIT (Botanical Research Institute of Texas) began a project called Smart Potatoes. The Smart Potato project is a semester long project that allows teachers to use the outdoor learning centers to support learning in all academic areas. The project is also a community service project in that teachers and students donate the harvest to a participating food pantry. When Mr. Sipma attended BRIT Smart Potato training, he was given a list of food pantries and immediately recognized the name Travis Avenue Baptist Church. Mr. Sipma contacted Mr. Anthony Galata of Travis and the rest is history. Travis and Clarke have celebrated 8 Smart Potato harvests since 2010.

    Our Smart Potato projects begin in early February. Teachers and students plant their potatoes before Valentine’s Day. We harvest our potatoes in the second to last week of school and on the day of the harvest we have two assemblies. The first assembly is informational and sort of like a pep-rally. Students and teachers follow a harvest schedule. Our student council members help weigh the potatoes as well as participate in public speaking as they participate in the assembly. Student council records all the potato harvest data and announce all the results to the audience. The assembly culminates with the announcement of which class had the most potatoes harvested and then the total amount of potatoes we harvested is announced. We then officially recognize our partners from Travis who are with our student council on stage and they then thank Travis for all they do to support the community. Student council then donates our harvest to Travis to support them in their efforts to help others in need.

    The History of the Outdoor Learning Center Gardens at George C. Clarke Elementary

    In 2005, our teachers Kelly Leatherman, Rita Castillo, Sharon Peak and Susan Brown helped create a 5 year partnership with the group Real School Gardens. Our principal was Anthony Martinez and assistant principal was Alice Galban. Real School Gardens was an initiative supported by the Richard Rainwater Foundation. Our campus was one of that organizations first school gardens. Richard Rainwater had a personal connection to George C. Clarke in that he attended George C. Clarke and had lived in the Clarke neighborhood.

    In 2005, our school had four portable classrooms where our current outdoor garden is located and the first garden was located on the east side of those portables. In the years of 2005 until 2009, Mrs. Leatherman and the 5th grade classes used the gardens to grow plants that they would use to make salsas.

    In 2009, the portable buildings were removed and the 5 year grant from Real School Gardens ended in 2010. Our campus moved from being supported through a grant to joining a yearly membership with Real School Gardens. The George C. Clarke and Real School Garden partnership endured for a total of 11 years. Our campus received educational support as well as material support for assisting our campus with maintaining our gardens.

    In 2010, Mr. Sipma, teacher, became the Garden Coordinator. The Parent Teacher Association agreed to fund the expansion of our outdoor learning gardens. The financial support allowed Mr. Sipma and his Garden Club to build a new 50 foot by 50 foot garden area where portable buildings used to be located. Seven additional raised bed gardens were built. A covered pavilion with seating was also built and installed by Michelle Sterner, PTA treasurer and teacher and her husband. Mr. Sipma’s garden club and volunteers also installed the fruit orchard as well.

    The expansion of the garden allowed our campus to have one individual garden for each homeroom teacher. In the year 2010, Real School Gardens and BRIT (Botanical Research Institute of Texas) began a project called Smart Potatoes. The Smart Potato project is a semester long project that allows teachers to use the outdoor learning centers to support learning in all academic areas. The project is also a community service project in that teachers and students donate the harvest to a participating food pantry. When Mr. Sipma attended BRIT Smart Potato training, he was given a list of food pantries and immediately recognized the name Travis Avenue Baptist Church. Mr. Sipma contacted Mr. Anthony Galata of Travis and the rest is history. Travis and Clarke have celebrated 8 Smart Potato harvests since 2010.

    Our Smart Potato projects begin in early February. Teachers and students plant their potatoes before Valentine’s Day. We harvest our potatoes in the second to last week of school and on the day of the harvest we have two assemblies. The first assembly is informational and sort of like a pep-rally. Students and teachers follow a harvest schedule. Our student council members help weigh the potatoes as well as participate in public speaking as they participate in the assembly. Student council records all the potato harvest data and announce all the results to the audience. The assembly culminates with the announcement of which class had the most potatoes harvested and then the total amount of potatoes we harvested is announced. We then officially recognize our partners from Travis who are with our student council on stage and they then thank Travis for all they do to support the community. Student council then donates our harvest to Travis to support them in their efforts to help others in need.

    Over the past 8 years our school has donated 1,733 pound of potatoes to Travis Avenue Baptist Church. 

     

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Garden Fun in Dual Language!

  • Using their hard work in the garden, Mrs. Bretado took the learning to Math/Science class with her 4th graders. Students had so MUCH fun! 

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