Julien Elementary School was one of 56 recipients throughout California to receive the Golden Bell Award — the state’s leading educational honor — for its school garden project.
“Winning the Golden Bell Award is such a great honor,” said principal Angela Freeman. “The teachers have developed lessons that correlate with the new standards. The garden is a pathway for students to learn language arts, math, social studies and science through real-life situations.”
For nearly 40 years, the California Schools Boards Association has used the Golden Bell Award to recognize outstanding public school programs and governance of school boards in school districts and county offices of education throughout California. A judging panel makes initial recommendations for the award and on-site validators assessed the programs in action.
“California’s K-12 public schools continue to produce some of the nation’s best and brightest students, and our Golden Bell recipients are a reflection of that excellence as well as the spirit of innovation which is so characteristic of this state,” said CSBA CEO and Executive Director Vernon Billy. “The Golden Bell Awards recognize the quality and the determination of school leaders from across California in meeting the needs of California’s students through award-winning programs and services.”
Freeman said the school garden project was submitted for the area of Curriculum and Instruction through the California Standards Implementation under Integrated Content. A CSBA representative visited Julien last month to observe how the garden serves as an outdoor classroom and converse with students and teachers during instruction.
According to the school garden project’s Facebook page, its goal is to “provide a nurturing space where children and teachers can engage in plant-based learning across the curriculum for active discovery and inquiry in an outdoor natural setting.”
Since the original school garden was created in 1998, thousands of students have accessed the garden to explore Common Core State Standards in English, mathematics, science, art and all core subjects, as well as engaged in critical exploration and inquiry skills.
“The garden has grown tremendously since its inception. The garden first started as a few small square foot beds; it was expanded in 2004, and recently doubled in size in 2014,” said Freeman. “Every year the garden is improved to grow with the knowledge and rigor of our students.”
Freeman said the garden is open to all students, although each grade level and classroom has different goals for the garden. While some classrooms do extensive studies of worms, isopods and other garden insects, third graders grow milkweed to assist traveling monarch butterflies and feed their own caterpillars to release into the wild. Fourth graders grow a mission garden to supplement their understanding of California history, and fifth graders experiment with native Indian corn, transpiration, photosynthesis, acids, and chemical reactions.
“The garden has greatly impacted the school. It is an outdoor learning environment that allows students to apply real-life learning and sustain healthy food and nutrition choices, which has created a well-rounded, meaningful learning environment for our students,” said Freeman.
TUSD will receive its award at a recognition ceremony from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 3 at CSBA’s Annual Education Conference and Trade Show in San Francisco Marriott Marquis, 780 Mission Street in San Francisco.
“Our staff and students are very deserving of this recognition,” said TUSD Superintendent Dana Salles Trevethan. “Their efforts at building and sustaining Julien’s School Garden have been both remarkable and beneficial to the school community. Enrichment programs such as this support instruction and our new standards and make learning ‘real.’”