Every Tuesday and Thursday about two dozen special needs students from Woodland Park Middle School make the trek on a path from their school to a community garden just around the corner.Here they meet up with an older adult from the San Marcos Senior Center and start doing tasks such as watering, weeding or planting. It’s not some innovative form of detention, however. In fact, the students have been asking school administrators to let them spend more time in the garden.
“Our students love coming to this garden,” said Patricia Kurylo, Assistant Principal Woodland Park Middle School. “They have expressed their wishes to spend more time here.”
Their new hangout is the County’s first inter-generational garden, part of the Live Well, San Diego! 10-year health care initiative. County officials joined the seniors and students on Thursday to celebrate the project and unveil a photo project called “The Good of the Garden.”
“This Good of the Garden Project has provided students and older adults with a creative way to showcase what they have been doing regarding nutrition and physical exercise,” said Ruth Supranovich, Assistant Deputy Director, San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA). “It’s allowed them to document – though photographs – how they have established their own garden plots and how they have worked together to grow fresh fruits and vegetables.”
The photos were on display throughout the garden. Each told a story about a student’s experience working with their older adult partner – whether it was planting seeds and seeing them mature, learning a weeding technique or figuring out how much water a plant needed.
“Working with their senior partners in the garden, our students are learning what kind of work it takes to grow the food they eat,” said Kurylo. “Most of the kids don’t understand where food comes from in today’s convenient society.
“Here in the garden the students are learning so many valuable pieces of information. They are talking about the different varieties of vegetables that perhaps they have never eaten; the amount of physical activity it takes to grow a garden; how to care for plants; how long it takes for that plant to grow and mature and come to fruition; and how to harvest.”
The “Good of the Garden” is a collaboration between Healthy Works, HHSA, San Marcos Unified School District, Woodlands Park Middle School, San Marcos Senior Center, and the City of San Marcos.
“It’s about coming together, of different ages, forming relationships, growing healthy foods and getting exercise while you’re doing it,” said Pam Smith, HHSA’s Aging and Independence Services Director. “We hope this is a spark and gets it going and we hope this will create a model for other communities.”