Date: Sep 14, 2009

Award recognizes leaders and innovators in California instructional school gardens

(Sacramento) – The California School Garden Network (CSGN) announced last week that Louisiana Schnell School’s Garden of Learning is the first-ever winner of the California School Garden of the Year Award. Louisiana Schnell is located in the Sierra foothills town of Placerville, Calif.

A $500 cash prize, an engraved stone plaque for the garden, a certificate of achievement signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver, a full scholarship to attend California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom’s Conference for Educators, and a $100 Home Depot gift card, along with other gardening tools and supplies will be awarded.

The Garden of Learning was first established in 1991 by a small group of teachers and parents. Today, all of the elementary school’s 420 children go in small groups to the garden every week where they raise more than 50 varieties of vegetables, flowers and herbs. Students participate in every aspect of the garden, including planning, preparing, designing, tilling, planting, watering, weeding, recording, harvesting and fertilizing. Ultimately, they eat part of what they produce, and they raise money to help sustain the program by selling excess produce at their own Farmer’s Market.

“Our garden is indeed a living laboratory, where we see and touch our academic subjects. Math, science, language arts, history, nutrition, environmental education, music, physical education, art – anything you teach in a classroom can also be taught in a garden,” said Kelli Wessman, Louisiana Schnell School’s garden coordinator. “The garden is also a place to nurture community spirit, common purpose, and cultural appreciation by building bridges among students, school staff, families, local business, and organizations. I am humbled and honored to receive this award on behalf of our students and our school for the work that we all love to do.”

“School gardens are making an extraordinary difference in the lives of California students,” said Tim Alderson, CSGN’s chairman. “Kids are eating the fruits and vegetables they grow, making actual connections to food and our natural environment, and their academic lessons in science, math and other subjects are taking on real-life meaning before their own eyes; it’s the ultimate teaching tool. We’re delighted that Louisiana Schnell School’s Garden of Learning is the winner of the first-ever Garden of the Year Award.”

California First Lady Maria Shriver serves as CSGN’s Honorary Chair, and has been a leader in the revival of the school garden movement, which has seen the number of gardens in state schools grow from 3,000 to 6,000 since 2004.

A panel of representatives from agriculture education organizations selected the winning school garden and five honorable mentions from a pool of 38 public, private, continuation and charter schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels. The five school gardens identified as runners-up include: Charter School of Morgan Hill (Morgan Hill); Hacienda Environmental Science Magnet (San Jose); Hermosa Valley School’s Garden of Yum (Hermosa Beach); Redlands High School’s Eric Jacobson Memorial Garden (Redlands); and Salmon Creek Charter School’s Harmony Garden (Occidental).

Photos of Louisiana Schnell School’s Garden of Learning are available for download and can be viewed at

The California School Garden Network is a statewide, nonprofit organization whose members represent a variety of state agencies, private companies, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations dedicated to creating and sustaining gardens in every willing school in California to enhance academic achievement, a healthy lifestyle, environmental stewardship, and community development. Please visit for more information.

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