Academic Enrichment Activities

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HEART Garden Program

To Contact This Program

Pro-Youth / HEART afterschool Program

Laurie Isham

P.O. Box 387
Visalia, CA 93277



Activity Description

Students in the HEART afterschool Program grow vegetables‚ herbs‚ flowers‚ and other plants in a garden located on the Union School grounds. The garden was created through a donation of funds and services provided by the local Visalia Rotary‚ and it is sponsored and mentored by the Rotary Agricultural Committee. Students at all levels are encouraged to participate and find a common interest in working together in the garden. In addition‚ students develop responsibility‚ learn cooperation‚ and improve communication skills by working together to reach goals. The garden also connects students to the earth and contributes to their understanding of ecological processes and the environment.

Number of Students Involved in This Activity: 200

Range of Student Ages: Five to twelve years old

Duration of Activity: Ongoing throughout the academic year

Relevant Contextual or Demographic Information: The HEART afterschool Program is located in Tulare County‚ a rural Central California county with a population of 368‚000 (over 33 percent are youth). Tulare County is one of eight counties which comprise the San Joaquin Valley. Tulare County has eight incorporated municipalities‚ only one of which exceeds 90‚000 in population (Visalia is the only urban area). For the remaining small cities and unincorporated enclaves‚ health care services‚ transportation‚ employment opportunities and the rest of the spectrum of social services are more often than not inadequate to meet even the most basic needs of the population. The challenges represented by social service availability shortfalls are compounded by high unemployment rates‚ pervasive poverty and low academic achievement. At each of the HEART schools‚ 90 percent or more of the students in the afterschool program participate in the Free and Reduced Meals program. Between 70 and 85 percent of the participating students are of Hispanic origin and 35 to 55 percent are English Language Learners. They come from homes where parents have limited proficiency in the English language.

Academic ContentWhat is the academic content of this activity? Science
The HEART Garden provides enrichment activities as a form of "embedded learning" by serving as an outdoor classroom - providing a context for studying science‚ nutrition‚ social studies‚ math‚ art‚ and more. Enrichment activities support knowledge of the soil‚ nutrients‚ and growing cycles of plants and an understanding of healthy eating habits.

Strong RelationshipsHow does this activity create strong relationships?
The garden provides an opportunity for the community to contribute to education by assisting the children in the garden and by mentoring students through the gardening process. Parents are able to participate and contribute by working with their children in the garden. In addition‚ local businesses and organizations are able to contribute to the project and see the outcome of their donation through a visit to the outdoor classroom. The Union School HEART Garden was donated by the Visalia Rotary and sponsored and mentored by the Rotary Agricultural Committee

Decision MakingWhat opportunities are there for authentic decision making?
Planting‚ caring for‚ and harvesting plants offers many opportunities for decision-making. Children are encouraged to consider what plants they would like to place in the garden‚ and the various upkeep and requirements of their selections. Developing a model of accountability regarding upkeep for the garden concerning basics‚ from a regular watering schedule to when to harvest‚ weed‚ and plant‚ also contributes to the development of decision-making skills.

Student LeadershipWhat student leadership opportunities are there?
Youth leadership opportunities in the garden include activities such as older children partnering with younger children to teach them about gardening techniques and serving as mentors; the development of consensus-building among various groups who care for and work in the garden‚ and youth acting as a liaison between the school and community visitors and contributors to the garden.


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