HOLTVILLE — It all started with a seed of an idea at the Boys & Girls Club of Imperial Valley — first in Brawley, then spreading to Holtville — to cultivate an appreciation of plant life in young people by acquainting them with the natural world surrounding them.
Boys & Girls Club unit manager in Brawley, four years ago helped launch a
club garden when the organization got a grant from the California Wellness
Foundation based in Los Angeles.
wanted to promote healthy lifestyles,” said Casas, who transferred to the
Holtville Boys & Girls Club three years ago. “We started growing
carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, then theme gardens like the salsa garden,
with tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Then we got Vince Zazueta (manager of the
Harding Elementary School garden in El Centro and a private growing consultant)
to teach the children how to grow their own fruits and vegetables. I split them
into two groups: kindergarten through second grade and third grade through the
master gardener and University of California, Davis, agriculture graduate,
arrived about 3:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at the club site at the St. Paul’s Lutheran
Church campus in Holtville. He began a session by reading from the classic
children’s book, “Owl in a Straw Hat” by Rudolfo Anaya, known as one
of the founders of contemporary Chicano literature.
want the kids to learn about the natural world,” Zazueta said. “I
hope that when they become more aware of the environment, they acquire an
appreciation of science.”
express a natural affinity for gardens
Boston, a third-grade student at the Pine School, explained he recently helped
plant broccoli at the garden and brought some home.
don’t really like broccoli, but I did like playing with the worms (in the
compost),” he admitted. “But I like cucumbers, especially in a
added when she arrived to pick him up, “As long as it has ranch dressing
over it. I discovered that a long time ago.”
don’t garden at home,” Rhodey confided. “But I like watermelon and
blueberries. And I liked the pomegranates we ate today.”
broke open a pomegranate and dished out the sweet innards of the fruit. Zazueta
cautioned the children to be careful not to spill the pomegranate seeds from
the Styrofoam cups because they can cause a permanent stain on their clothes.
seeds look like little salmon eggs,” Rhodey declared.
children of the garden club were delighted with their pomegranate treats, most of
whom asked for second and third helpings.
Maddy K., a
Finley school fifth-grade student, has been attending a previous garden club
session and noted she hopes she returns more often.
help my neighbor, Michelle, plant fruits and veggies,” Maddy said, who
Casas asked her last name not to be used, like the rest of the children
plant pumpkin seeds. And then in the fall we had a pumpkin pie. And we also mad
giant fruit salads with apples, watermelon and cucumbers,” Maddy added.
Davis S., a
sixth-grade Pine School student, admitted his first attempts at planting were
less than successful.
we planted cucumbers and spinach and those were pretty good,” he said.
“I also did a shishito (an east Asian pepper) today. It was the first time
I heard of it. I like the garden club a lot. And I may try it at home, I live
just across the street.”
a third-grade student at Finley School, has been in the garden club for three
like that we can plant the vegetables and I get to play with the worms in the
pile of dirt and newspapers (compost),” she said. “My favorite are
carrots, but I also like black olives, celery and cucumber. My mom asks me to
help plant her cactus. And I help my neighbor plant sunflowers.”
at the root
sees the garden as a perfect teaching moment.
want the kids to become good stewards for the environment,” he said.
“Research shows that kids who work on school gardens grow into adults who
are environmentally concerned. And as adults they are better informed. Even the
top of the news stories are talking about climate change, and how it’s
affecting the wildfires and floods. It’s the next generation that must solve
the garden club is working well under Zazueta’s direction.
teaches the children about the plant cycle, from seed to flower to fruit,”
she said. “Then it dies, and we collect the seeds and start the cycle over
again. Now the Holtville garden is expanding. The kids really love it and it
helps with their education.”