Napa Valley Registerby Barbara PahreIn April, I was contacted by Tom Wolf, a teacher at New Tech High. The 9th grade class was interested in participating in a “pilot week” to determine what learning could and would take place by concentrating learning objectives in an authentic project.The 9th graders wanted to develop a project dealing with food insecurity in Napa. The Covenant Garden, a cooperative project between Covenant Presbyterian Church, Napa CanDoCanGrow (growers for the Napa Valley Can Do Food Bank), and Latinos Unidos, a Latino advocacy group growing produce for their members, families, and community, was asked to meet with the students and explain how we were addressing food insecurity in Napa through our garden project.As garden facilitator, I optimistically took my Power Point to New Tech.Twenty-two students then visited the garden, returned to New Tech and started planning how best to support the garden. Their goal was to determine what support looked like and solve the issue they identified.One group saw that we had no planter boxes to house seedlings from a Napa Junction 1st grade “Food Insecurity Project.”Another group saw that there was no hygienic way to wash produce as it came from the garden.Three groups discovered that because it was an all organic, no poison, no trap garden, there was a “pest control” issue.With the support of their teachers, each other, and one generous father, the students presented the Covenant Garden with a beautiful planter box for the seedlings, an amazing wash stand, an owl box, a bat box, and two bluebird boxes.All projects had been carefully designed to honor the all organic, no poison, no trap philosophy of the garden. Projects were researched to determine actual building specifications. (Did you know an owl box needed to be oriented northeast?)Students learned why bats and birds are essential to a healthy garden.The wash stand was the correct height and was weatherproofed so it could sit outside.The planter box sat on gopher wire to protect the precious 1st grade seedlings.Students told me they used tools for the first time. It didn’t look that way. Project-based learning had immersed these 9th graders in an authentic way.As they proudly displayed their “Food Insecurity” support projects at the open house, it was clear that they would always be hooked on helping. What a great Pilot Week.It’s always fun to see your name in print, so hats off to: Brie M., Melissa C., Priscilla S. who built the perfect planter box; to Yahir E., Gabriel C., Max C. and Gabriel C. for the bat box complete with chicken wire for hanging; to Vianet R, Kinsley Y., Elizabeth S., Charlie J (and his dad, Tom who donated the wood) for the complete and beautiful wash stand; to Lars L., Taylor P., Christian L. for the owl box that is an owl’s paradise: to Alex W, Cruz S., Edgar R., Jamie B., Aiden S., Emily Gl, Axel O,. Damian G., Rafael B., for blue bird boxes that are certain to become home to insect-eating bluebirds.A special thank you to Tom Wolf and Kevin Jacoby, the teachers who believed in these during this non-linear, authentic learning process.Last year the Latinos Unidos garden alone produced 1,400 pounds of produce. Kids, you are helping feed people. Keep up the good work. Volunteers are always welcome in the garden.Tags: Authenticity, Community Partnerships, PBL, Project Based Learning

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