How garden-oriented schools turn kids into environmental leaders

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Environmental Charter Middle School - Inglewood (ECMS-I) grows food year-round, producing enough harvest to provide free fresh produce to its school community. Photo courtesy of Environmental Charter Middle School - Inglewood.

In recent years, new schools have popped up across Los Angeles, offering kids a chance to learn about growing food, minimizing waste, and everything in between. 

“We utilize the environment as a vehicle to engage students, get them out into their communities, [and] learn about the issues we're facing as citizens,” says Tashanda Giles-Jones, who teaches sixth to eighth grade at Environmental Charter Middle School - Inglewood (ECMS-I). It’s part of a network of three schools in South Los Angeles.

“By the time they leave us in eighth grade, and if we're lucky to keep them all the way through high school, you see a big difference in the way they interact with the earth and nature.”

Pasted Image ECMS-I students not only take classes in the gardens, but they also help maintain the open green spaces as part of their Green Ambassador class. Photo courtesy of Environmental Charter Middle School - Inglewood. 

Giles-Jones believes that in order to tackle our most pressing environmental problems, including pollution, food insecurity, and waste, teachers have to instill environmental skills and practices in their students while they're young.

“There hasn't been an emphasis on understanding where our food comes from,” she says. “It's time that we take a pause because we can see it impacting our nutrition, we can see it impacting communities. They don't even understand they're living in food deserts, or what that even means.”

Pasted Image In addition to composting pre-consumed food waste from local restaurants through a partnership with The Bay Foundation, ECMS-I also diverts campus food waste from landfills through their comprehensive composting program located on campus. Photo courtesy of Environmental Charter Middle School - Inglewood. 

Credits

Guest:
Tashanda Giles-Jones - Teacher, Environmental Charter Middle School, Inglewood

Host:
Steve Chiotakis

Producers:
Christian Bordal, Jenna Kagel, Kathryn Barnes