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Creating a loving, growing, learning, sustainable community habitat for people, animals and even insects right here in Garland, Texas

The continuing development of this proposed program will be fueled through partnerships of Loving Garland Green members with other community groups such as Keep Garland Beautiful and Habitat for Humanity and City of Garland Departments such as the Neighborhood Vitality Department, our water department, our environmental waste department, our Parks and Recreation Department, etc.  At the heart of this interconnected program are our public schools—their students, teachers and administrators and volunteers from our community.

This program, when fully realized, will transform the school and its grounds into a literal urban agricultural learning format for the children against the backdrop of which they can learn science, math, art, history, conservation of resources, the importance of community and relationships with others, how to work together with others, and many more important life skills.

We already have proof of concept for this program with the overwhelming success of URBAN GARDENS FOR KIDS.  We are expanding this part of the program into a second series beginning April 10 which will involve several community volunteers and we are already moving forward under the leadership of Betty Roberts and members of Keep Garland Beautiful to build a butterfly garden together with the students at Beaver Technology Center-- a magnet school in Garland.

Over the course of the coming year we hope to have all phases of this program in operation by the end of May, 2016 at the Beaver Technology Center here in Garland, Texas.  That location is proposed to serve as the pilot model for this project.

NOTE TO PARENTS:  working in the soil literally enhances learning:  http://www.sage.edu/newsevents/news/?story_id=240785

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PROPOSED PROGRAM SUMMARY

 

A few from the Urban Gardens for Kids class checking their seedlings after the first class

URBAN GARDENS FOR KIDS

Tomorrow will be the last session for the first course of URBAN GARDENS FOR KIDS.  I designed this class with the assistance of several talented teachers from Beaver Technology Center (Beaver Tech) here in Garland Texas.  It was offered as an 8-week elective to 50 students.  We met once a week for 45 minutes.  One week I taught K-2 students while the other teachers taught a 3-5 class and then the following week we alternated teaching these groups. The class was a huge success.  The children's enthusiasm for learning about plants, community and the importance of urban agriculture was amazing.  In eight weeks of classes I never had to verbally correct any student for misbehaving. [A little bit of chaos is needed to open the door to creativity and new ideas whereas too much focus on order tends to stifle it.]  But in this case, I think the students' exemplary behavior was due to their fascination with the subject matter.  Once or twice I said "heads up" but that was only because we were in the greenhouse and their excitement was high regarding their plants.  MORE ON THIS CLASS FROM A PREVIOUS ARTICLE

BUTTERFLY GARDENS

Our ultimate goal with this part of the program is to see the installation of a butterfly garden on the school grounds of every school in Garland ISD where feasible due to space and sunlight.  There are many expected benefits to be derived from having a butterfly garden on school property in addition to the obvious purpose of adding beauty and providing a format for the students who attend the school to learn about the various life cycles of insects first-hand.  A butterfly garden can actually be the first step to strengthening the micro-community that surrounds the school.  This part of the program is still in its infancy.  

We have already advanced to this point:  we have obtained permission from administrators at Beaver Tech to install a Butterfly Garden on their school grounds.  Betty Roberts, current leader of Keep Garland Beautiful, and her team have submitted a grant proposal for funds for establishing a butterfly garden.  It is expected that Keep Garland Beautiful and Loving Garland Green will work in partnership with other nonprofit groups as well as local businesses and city departments such as our Neighborhood Vitality group Department to build this butterfly garden.  Part of the design of the Butterfly Garden Build will be the creation of a neighborhood group to be connected to the school.  It is formed along the principles of "Adopting Your Neighborhood School".  These neighborhood residents will also participate in these activities.  We hope to have this garden installed by the end of May 2015 and a schedule set up for the neighbors to keep it watered over the summer.

NEIGHBORHOOD COMMUNITY GARDEN

Over the coming months, beginning in mid to late May of 2015, members of Loving Garland Green (working with members of Keep Garland Beautiful and the Garland Neighborhood Vitality Department, school administrators and teachers at Beaver Tech) will create a neighborhood group for Beaver Tech.  We will help the residents of this area to plan and build a community garden in a designated area of the school grounds.  Perhaps we will bring them together with picnics on the school grounds and other social functions such as ice cream socials that bring the neighborhood onto the school grounds.  We want to emphasize that our public schools belong to us all and as owners of this property, we share in the responsibility of helping to take care of it and see that this property is used to its fullest potential to teach our children.  

By the end of August, 2015 we will have at least four, 4' x 8' square foot gardens installed and planted with a winter garden on the grounds of Beaver Tech.  During the fall session, the students will share the responsibility of caring for these beds with the neighbors.  Beaver Tech offers many great opportunities for sharing urban agricultural activities with their neighbors.  Neighbors and the students can plant a full winter crop of more delicate vegetables such as tomatoes and lettuce in the wonderful huge greenhouse that is located on the school grounds. Parts of this project might involve monitoring their crop productions to see how many people might be fed from their harvest. The possibility of lesson plans evolving out of these activities is almost countless.

MICRO VILLAGE

Building a micro-village is a project that members of Loving Garland Green, under the leadership of Anita Opel, have been exploring for about a year now.  The basic concept is to build three tiny homes on a standard lot and landscape it with a central community garden.  Parking would be on the periphery of the property.  The residents of these small pocket communities would be connected by similar interests--for example a group of artists or a group of veterans.  Introducing new ways of sustainable lifestyles or new ways of doing anything into any community always meets with strong resistance. And over the years, leaders of the status quo have often enacted laws and codes to ensure the ossification of what they believe is best. More often than not, it requires Herculean efforts to tear down these walls.  

I've decided that for this project it may be wise to follow the advice offered by the I Ching which basically advises to hold quietly at the center until the obstacles in your way have been tamed by the Higher Power--often difficult advice for me to follow.  However, instead of head-butting directly with obstacles, sometimes the best solution is to walk around them.

This aspect of the program would be a yearlong project beginning September 2015 and concluding May 2016 with the finished build of a tiny home. This project offers many goals and benefits for the students, the community and the school. For this part of the program, the students at Beaver Tech, with the assistance from members of Loving Garland Green, the teachers at Beaver Tech, neighborhood volunteers, and other interested people and businesses in Garland would build a tiny home on school property.  

During this process the children could learn first hand all the basics of what is involved in building a home by building this small model together.  We could designate stages where tickets are sold for the public to view the progress.  The money from the ticket sales might be needed to further production on the home and/or could be used by the school for other educational supplies.  

At the end of the project in May 2016 we would open the model home to a public tour.  At this tour and prior to, we would sell raffle tickets for the home.  The money from the sale of these tickets would perhaps go to support the continuation of all aspects of the urban agricultural program at Beaver Tech.  The winner of the home would be responsible for hauling it off.  Of course there are many other possibilities for the end-fate of this tiny home as well as the development of this project.  I leave that up to Anita and all the wonderful volunteers from our community who step forward to work with her and the administrators, teachers and Beaver Tech students on this project.

FRUIT GLEANING

Fruit gleaning is the process of collecting fallen fruit from trees in the city that would otherwise go to waste. Many large metropolitan areas such as Toronto have organized citizens into these kinds of groups and have successful programs like this in place for several years.  Members of these groups collect thousands of pounds of fruit each year.  They sell this fruit to residents and distribute much of it to local food banks.

This project is still in the formative stages.  I'm hoping that we will be able to work with Beth Dattomo from Mayor Doug Athas' office on establishing this part of the proposed urban agricultural program for Garland.  Beth works closely with the Garland Youth Commission.  I'm not sure how we will move forward with this aspect of our program.

However there are already some good models of these systems already in place in the USA and Canada.  We can build on these established programs and adapt them to meet the specific needs of our own community.  These programs all have common elements:

1.  Location and Maps for Fallen Fruit   -  The core volunteer group locates places in the city where volunteers can gather the fruit (with permission from the owners) and creates maps with information regarding these sites (what type of trees, names of owners, etc.).  Various contracts are worked out with the owners of the fruit trees.  Some may not care to keep any of the fruit.  Others may want take a portion of the harvest for themselves.  Some trees may be located on abandoned property, or even property that is owned by the city.

2. Designation of a Distribution Center - This is the place where the gatherers bring the fruit for sorting, weighing and distributing.  Here in Garland we already have a great possibility for this distribution center:  the shed at 4022 Naaman School Road which is located on city property adjoining the licensed property of the Garland Community Garden that is stewarded by Loving Garland Green.  Furthermore, if this space were designated as the distribution center for fallen fruit, we could install a gutter system on the roof and harvest almost enough rainwater from that one roof to water our entire community garden.

Note:  Although students from Beaver Tech could certainly participate in the Fruit Gleaning part of the program, I see this one as perhaps better undertaken by our Youth Commission and older youth of our community.  Also, I would like to see our older youth working with some of the Beaver Tech students on building the tiny home.

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