The California Fertilizer Foundation (CFF) announces the latest crop of school garden grant winners.

The six schools selected for grants in the second quarter of 2004 will be able to apply for a progress grant at the end of the year. Half of the schools feature partnerships between the classroom and the local garden club. A profile for each school and a presentation schedule follow.

At Catherine Everett Elementary School in Modesto, two special education classes make up the Junior Garden Club Project with help from their teachers, Paula Barton and Christine Wells as well as Betty Jean Reynolds and Cheryl Patkoski, volunteers from the Modesto Garden Club.

“Our special education students are becoming school leaders with this (garden) project and are benefiting from increased social interaction with the entire school,” said Patkoski. Students are quick to point out new developments in the garden and document them with pictures to add to a visual timeline of the garden's progress. CFF staff and members were to present the school garden grant to the Catherine Everett Elementary Junior Garden Club on Sept. 3 at the school, located at 1530 Mt. Vernon Drive in Modesto.

Blaker-Kinser Junior High School's Junior Leaders of Agriculture sets the standard for school garden programs in Ceres, Calif. For almost a decade, teacher Mike James has instilled in his students a love for and understanding of agriculture. Each year Mike and his students tackle a new project, from building a canopy over a seating area to building raised beds to provide access to wheelchair bound students; their garden keeps growing and growing. Additionally, the lessons in agriculture and gardening do not end with the school year.

Members of the Junior Leaders of Agriculture Club return to the school on a weekly basis over summer vacation to tend to the garden and ultimately cultivate their crops to compete at the County Fair. The CFF grant was to be presented Sept. 3 at Blaker-Kinser Junior High, 1601 Kinser Road in Ceres.

What do you get when you add 15 Colfax Garden Club Members, 16 elementary school classrooms and three years of work? You get one beauty of a garden at Colfax Elementary School and a community filled with people of all ages who understand the importance of agriculture and have a true passion for gardening. Before some of the students can even spell vermiculture, they are learning important lessons about soil health, composting and nutrition.

It also helps that the garden project is spearheaded by Jewell DeLapp, Colfax Garden Club Youth Chairwoman and retired vice principal of Colfax Elementary School. The deep roots planted in this community should keep the garden growing strong for years to come. The CFF grant was to be presented Sept. 10 at Colfax Elementary School, 24825 Ben Taylor Road in Colfax.

At Chrysler Elementary in Modesto, a former teacher keeps tabs on her school and her students by starting a school wide garden project. In a few short months, Bev Eckland and her Chrysler Cultivators have already held a successful fundraiser, built raised beds, installed a drip irrigation system, planted and harvested spinach, lettuce, baby bok choy, swiss chard and strawberries.

The first weeks of school this fall, the Cultivators will focus on a sunflower house for lots of math and science activities. Additionally, seedlings grown by the Cultivators will be planted in one of the city garden plots. The CFF grant was to be presented Sept. 14 at the school, located at 2818 Conant Avenue, Modesto.

Everyone has a hand in gardening at Samuel Kennedy Elementary School in Sacramento. Each of the more than 1,000 students enjoy garden based lesson plans tailored to the curriculum. Students have direct roles in planting, weeding, watering and maintaining both the school garden plots as well as maintaining flowerbeds that keep the school grounds beautiful.

“The garden has become a tool to provide real-life experiences in reading and math and an opportunity for our teacher to extend learning outside of the classroom. In addition, Kennedy's garden has been a vehicle to help “harder-to-reach” students form a positive connection with our school. Their participation in our garden program has been a boost to their self esteem and academic performance,” wrote Vice Principal Lawrence Quismondo. The CFF grant was to be presented later this year.

The Speech and Language Development Center (SLDC) in Buena Park, Calif. is one of the largest accredited K-12 therapy and education centers in southern California. Its 340 students are described as hard-to-serve, special needs students referred to the center from over 47 public school districts and Regional Centers in Los Angeles and Orange counties. While gardening has been part of the curriculum for many years, in 2004 SLDC has planted a full-fledged, on-campus gardening program called “Growing with Kids.” This program focuses on a variety of tactile activities to reinforce motor skills development and hand-eye coordination.

The projects in the program involve art, science, literature, history and other subjects that reinforce classroom curriculum and foster self expression among the children. The CFF grant was to be presented to SLDC later this year.

Applications from after school programs, garden clubs, 4-H and FFA programs are eligible for the CFF School Garden Grant Program. At the end of the year, CFF grant winners from the fourth quarter 2003 through the third quarter of 2004 will be invited to reapply for a progress grant of $1,500 and an agricultural field trip. The next deadline for grant applications, available at www.calfertilizer.org, is Dec. 15, 2004.