Education Matters: Growing our Learning Garden

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

My daughter Stephanie tells me about a program at Venice High School partially initiated by the acupuncture school she attended, Yo San University. It's called the Learning Garden and it has become one of the country's largest and most successful school gardens since it launched in March 2001.

I've visited a number of Glendale schools since retiring in June, and I have seen the beginnings of small gardens at several sites, even on the smallest campuses where space is at a premium. I believe this allocation will bear fruit in a number of ways, and while it isn't contained in any of the state curricular standards, I believe it should be.

Our students spend a good part of their day hooked into a dazzling array of technology and are, like most of us, far removed from the food and products they consume. Wouldn't it be great if they could get out from behind their screens and witness firsthand something that is more awesome by far than even the most sophisticated computer? Planting a seed and nurturing the life that comes from it is something every child should experience.

Children are naturally curious and like to learn by doing. And they love to play in dirt. Working in a garden, a child can experience the satisfaction that comes from caring for something over time, while observing the cycle of life firsthand.

But back to the Learning Garden. It is a model example of how school gardens can transform the lives of students and teachers and the environment of their community. Today, the agricultural plots are filled with organic food grown by the high school students. Health-related classes such as tai chi, qigong and natural food cooking are offered on its large stone patio.

The garden has a large medicinal plant section for educational purposes, a pond with a water garden and waterfall and a California native plant and cacti garden. A community garden is tended by local volunteers, and numerous groups and organizations use and support the garden.

The Learning Garden is much more than a garden. For the students of the high school, it is an opportunity to be closer to nature, a place to learn about respecting the environment and taking care of plants and animals. For the community, it is a place of visual beauty. For those who have dedicated thousands of hours to making the inspiration of the garden a reality, it is a joyful and fulfilling accomplishment.

Here's what students and teachers say about this amazing place:

"It's a training ground for learning to be patient."

"People that come from other schools make comments like 'I never had this in my high school.' There is a sense of pride associated with the garden, a sense of ownership, and the kids want to show it off. Before, it was an abandoned and sad plot of land."

"There was a history of vandalism in the garden prior to our embarking on the project. That has almost ceased entirely since we have been here."

"There were many students that worked hard in the garden doing community service hours here after the groundbreaking. It seems that they all find a way to come back and find out how the garden is during the summer breaks. Their heart is still in it."

"When neighborhoods are transformed into gardens, numerous social problems are resolved: crime decreases, community and family bonds are strengthened."

"When students take care of something living, they learn how to become caretakers for themselves."

"The garden fits right with the school's health program, and should be used even more extensively. Teaching organic gardening should be done in all health classes."

"Many of my students come from extremely dysfunctional families and environments, and working in the garden gives them an opportunity to become part of a very loving situation. You can see firsthand that the more care you give something, the more it flourishes. Looking at the garden from the educational perspective is extremely multifaceted."

I say bravo to the principals in our district who have found room on their campuses and time for their students to cultivate the soil and, in the process, cultivate an appreciation for its bounty. I'm encouraged by the seeds that have been planted and can only hope that there are more to come.

DAN KIMBER taught in the Glendale Unified School District for more than 30 years. He may be reached at


FOR THE RECORD: Numerous paragraphs from the piece were plagiarized from the “About Us” page of According to representatives of the organization, the information on the site was published in 2006.  



Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World