Sowing Seeds of Hope and Possibility
The L.I.F.E. (Lopez Island Farm Education) Garden Program helps K- 12 students learn appreciation for nature, nutrition, community, land stewardship and the environment. Founded six years ago, L.I.F.E. has exceeded all expectations, maturing to become a fully integrated, inspiring model for schools nationwide. See the brochure.
In the elementary school, our half-time garden teacher has a class weekly, using experiential, garden-based curriculum to teach literacy, social studies, math and science. Kids regularly head outdoors to plant, hoe, dig, water and weed their vegetable beds and collect the harvest. Back in class they prepare a fresh-from-the-garden snack on a mobile cooking cart. Learning the basics of good nutrition and healthy eating come naturally in this class.
Students in the 6–12 Farm-to-School Class grow fresh, organic produce for the school cafeteria from January through June. With the addition of three high tower greenhouse tunnels in 2009, their organic tomatoes, broccoli, beets, turnips, squash, romaine, leaf lettuces, arugula, Asian greens and bok choy have become a staple in the school lunch menu. A newly planted campus orchard will soon bear apples, cherries and pears.
High schoolers experience the whole “seed-to-plate” cycle in an elective class at a nearby fifty-acre biodynamic farm where they prepare soil; plant and transplant crops; and care for the farm's cows, sheep, pigs and chickens. They learn to make butter, cheese, yogurt, breads, vinegars and sausage in the farm kitchen. Additional culinary classes, held in the school kitchen, are popular skill and confidence builders that often lead to careers in food service and the culinary arts.
The Power of L.I.F.E.
From kindergarten through high school, students once accustomed to a regular diet of processed food are learning healthy choices and eating delicious, organic lunches from their own garden beds. In a companion program called Evening Meals at School, students, families, neighbors and friends are invited to campus monthly to enjoy communal, organic, locally grown dinners in the spiffed-up cafeteria. The meals, offered by donation only, are extending the benefits of L.I.F.E. to the whole community.
Lopez Island School’s L.I.F.E. Garden Program is also showcased in The Center for Ecoliteracy's new book Smart by Nature as one of twenty innovative K-12 programs across the country that prepares students for a sustainable future.