Gardening is an interactive elective we are very lucky to have at Santa Barbara High School. The year-long course takes place early in the morning, before period one, near the VADA building. Although the course is a zero-period class, passersby can often see busy work in the garden throughout the school day and even on breaks, as students continue to tend the garden, harvest fruit and vegetable, transfer bees, sweep, and look after the chickens.
SBHS senior Macy Maulhardt says her favorite thing about the class is “Eating the food that we grow, especially the carrots and snap peas. […] It’s fun to spend time with my friends and peers in the garden and start my school day by working in the garden.” Maulhardt said, “We plant a lot of stuff, we pick a lot of weeds, we turn rows over and mostly we just plant plants really.”
In addition, sophomore Charley Raymond says, “Basically what we do is maintain the garden and then literally everything from sweeping, caring for the chickens, picking up persimmons, picking weeds, planting stuff and all that.”
Studies have shown again and again that having a school gardening class on campus helps stimulate cognitive growth in students and teaches content that students will apply long after the course ends due to its hands-on learning philosophy. On top of this, the course takes place in a relatively stress-free environment and the structure and grading is based almost entirely only on attendance–which is, at times, more difficult than it sounds but is still very different from other highschool courses.
Raymond says that José Caballero, the teacher of the course, “just goes like, ‘Ok, I need six people on this, six people on this,’ and so on. How the grading works is based on your attendance. [José] just counts up all the days you should be in the class, and how many days you’ve missed, and he just docs up the points. How you can make up, you can work after hours and I came in during Winter break, Thanksgiving break, and the past few three-day weekends and racked up more hours that way.”
There is special praise for the teacher of the course, José Caballero. Raymond kindly says, “José is great, I think everyone loves José. I honestly think that a lot of us have a really close relationship with him. A lot of us come to him about things and he really cares about his students; he’ll help them to, like, do well in everything. Yeah, he’s cool.”
The teacher is fun, the assignments are interactive and the space is stimulating but calming; we are lucky enough to be able to have such an elective on our campus. Students are welcome to swing by the garden to check out the chickens and the class is also currently selling small plants for students to take home for their personal gardens; so head over there or email José and grab some plants!
[Image credit Luna Kirsch]