play Winner / 2014

75 School Gardens in Los Angeles Schools!

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by EnrichLA

We are building 11 new gardens that will receive our Garden Ranger Program - offering garden based ed to THOUSANDS of LA kids!


Please describe yourself.

Proposed collaboration (we want to work with partners!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

EnrichLA will reach our goal of building 75 school gardens, and will offer our Garden Ranger Program to at least 5,500 additional students!

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Our LA2050 project is to reach a goal of building 75 edible school gardens in Los Angeles schools! To accomplish this, we will build 11 new edible gardens and offer the Garden Ranger Program at 11 new schools!

EnrichLA builds edible gardens and green spaces in local schools across Los Angeles, with a particular focus on low-income and under-served neighborhoods. Our gardens offer thousands of Los Angeles youth in park-poor communities access to green, outdoor spaces, and healthy, active education.

Through our Garden Ranger Program, children engage in hands-on learning within their own schoolyard. Access to edible gardens, coupled with garden education, encourages children to make healthier choices – at school and beyond.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

EnrichLA has a significant track record for designing, building, and providing programming at schools across Los Angeles. Within the last 3 years, EnrichLA has built over 60 gardens in Los Angeles schools, and in the 2013-2014 school year, we offered our Garden Ranger Program at 25 schools.

To implement this project, we will identify 11 schools that want an edible school garden within their schoolyard. We already have a wait-list of schools so this will not be a problem. Once the needs of the individual school have been identified, and a garden design created, we work with a crew of volunteers to transform the garden space in the span of a single day! Our volunteer groups are made up of students, staff, and parents, local community members, as well as volunteer groups such as Gay 4 Good, Do Good Bus, UCLA Volunteers, USC Helenes, and more!

The next step will be to hire additional Garden Rangers that serve at these sites. These Garden Rangers are educated and experienced, and they are thoroughly trained in our Garden Ranger curriculum and EnrichLA standards so as to offer the best possible experience to students. The Garden Rangers will then provide weekly garden classes and garden maintenance at these schools, as well as organize community workshops and work days.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to PLAY today? In 2050?

Our motto is to put “A Garden in Every School” and thereby with every school garden we create, we are offering students, parents, teachers, and community members the opportunity to play, and with that play, to live and learn. The beauty of our endeavor is that with every garden we create, we are in effect establishing an incubator for new opportunities; for communities to come together over a garden work day, for teachers to become stewards of the environment, and for children to become acquainted, by the sweat of their own brow, with those fruits and vegetables that will most nourish them.

In less than three years EnrichLA has converted over 60 parcels of unused open space into productive gardens at Los Angeles’ most needy schools. Over the course of the next school year EnrichLA plans to build 11 new gardens at 11 schools, making our total number of school gardens built 75. That means acres of asphalt removed, acres of green space available to families otherwise unable to access parks, and acres of crops to nourish thousands of families otherwise without access to healthy options.

Beyond the immediate benefit of creating garden space, EnrichLA fosters lasting connections with the schools it partners with–through community workshops, providing consistent garden maintenance, and through the implementation of our “Garden Ranger” program. Slated for 35 schools in the 2014-2015 school year, the “Garden Ranger” program engages whole classrooms in garden-based education. Students become acquainted with healthy foods (some of which, like beets and artichokes, students had prior never been exposed to) and concepts of environmental stewardship, all the while pursuing a curriculum that meets the standards of a California education.

In 2050, LA will have a garden in every single one of its schools. Many schools will maintain urban farms, the produce from which will supplement greatly the food available through school lunches. In 2050, every single one of these schools will maintain a robust garden-based educational curriculum, with home-grown and EnrichLA Garden Rangers working side by side to acquaint the next generation of Angelenos with the food that sustains a healthy and robust society. By the end of their secondary education, Angelenos of the 2050’s will be environmentally conscious and environmentally active horticulturalists, nutritionists, ecologists, and socially responsible members of their community.

Whom will your project benefit?

The expansion of our Garden Ranger Program to eleven new schools will offer the program to a minimum of 5,500 students who previously lacked access to a school garden and to our Garden Ranger Program.

Although the Garden Ranger Program primarily targets youth in schools, the gardens we create are available to the entire community as a launching pad for further collaboration. We have seen how parents, teachers, teens, and children of all backgrounds will come together to build a garden from scratch within a single day.

By building new edible gardens and green spaces in these 11 schools, thousands of school students, teachers, staff, and parents will have access to an outdoor space where they can live, learn, and play. These green spaces offer people in park-poor communities with access to green space.

Schools themselves benefit from the garden; the Garden Ranger Program improves their campus aesthetic and has the ability to improve their academic standing. We have seen firsthand how the installation of a garden at Thomas Starr King Middle School brought about such a change in the school environment and morale that school’s API jumped from the 600’s to well over 800 in a matter of 5 years. Science classes gain an outdoor laboratory with which they can conduct real-world experiments, children have a new outdoor area to play during recess, some teachers take their lunches to the garden, and neighbors help maintain the space. In short, the entire community benefits.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

EnrichLA has worked with partners such as Kaiser Permanente, St. Johns Wellness Center, LAUSD Facilities, Whole Foods, Whole Kids Foundation, Tree People, and more. EnrichLA is open to new and continuing partnerships as we hope to partner with like-minded organizations concerned with offering edible education and green spaces to local students.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Play” metrics?

  • Access to open space and park facilities
  • Residents within 1⁄4 mile of a park (Dream Metric)
  • Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park (Dream Metric)
  • Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities (Dream Metric)
  • Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

EnrichLA has a particular interest in building edible school gardens in some of Los Angeles’ most park-poor communities. Many of our schools are built in areas with little to no green space. Our school gardens change that.

These gardens act as outdoor classrooms, cheer-up school campuses, and connect children with the source of their food. Children have commented that they feel “safe” in the garden. The school garden offers them not only the opportunity to grow foods, but also to play and learn in an active, outdoor green space.

Community workshops and work days will offer community members (from all walks of life) the opportunity to enjoy the gardens as well.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

EnrichLA will refine some existing methods of evaluation and roll out some new methods during the 2014-2015 school year.

1) We will evaluate our impact by developing a student-centered survey to measure changes in students who attend schools that receive EnrichLA’s Garden Ranger programming. We will track changes in access to fresh, healthy foods, the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed per day, attitudes toward environmental responsibility, as well as time spent in the garden or in outdoor classroom settings. The USDA has partnered with Colorado Farm-to-School to develop evaluation tools for school farm/gardening programming. We will utilize these tools to develop an effective survey method.

2) We will track the amount of fruits and vegetables that are harvested from our gardens, as well as tracking where these fruits and vegetables go (to students, community members, food banks, etc.).

3) We will track the number of students who are not participating in the Garden Ranger Program that have access to and that utilize the garden space. We will track the number of teachers that utilize the garden space for educational purposes outside of the Garden Ranger Program, and we will also track the number of community members that engage in the garden and in garden workshops and work days.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Through our experience with building school gardens and offering garden education at Los Angeles Schools, we have discovered a variety of benefits, some un-planned.

Our initial garden at Thomas Starr King Middle School revealed that something as simple as an edible school garden can bring together a community, to rally for the benefit of its children. The school garden was one of the catalysts that led this school from an API in the 600’s to an API of 843. With that initial garden, we realized the importance of bringing together outside actors to help improve school campuses.

Additionally, we have realized the importance of connecting children with the source of their food. By having a hands-on role in planting, tending to, harvesting, and preparing these fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables, children are more likely to try them, more likely to enjoy them, and more likely to eat them - at school AND at home.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

In three years, EnrichLA has established edible gardens in over 60 schools and has successfully implemented our Garden Ranger Program at 25 schools. With an average of 21 schools a year, we are confident that adding 11 more gardens/green spaces and 11 more Garden Ranger programs in Los Angeles is an achievable goal.

EnrichLA employs educated, dedicated, and thoroughly trained Garden Rangers. Rangers not only maintain garden standards throughout the year, but more importantly they act as an EnrichLA ambassador to the surrounding communities. Our Garden Ranger Program is the driving force that will help us reach a minimum of 5,500 youth. Garden Rangers introduce the edible gardens to school faculty, parents, students, and nearby neighborhood by enlisting help from the community to keep the garden a healthy and flourishing environment. Under the Garden Ranger’s instruction, the EnrichLA curriculum touches on common core and state science standards, all the while students are outside, having fun, and learning lasting skills that they will carry throughout their lives.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

EnrichLA has worked with over 60 schools to design and build edible school gardens. We have a good relationship with LAUSD facilities and with school staff and administrators. Over the last 3 years, we have proven what we are able to accomplish and we have no doubt that we have in place a streamlined process for bringing edible school gardens and garden programming to Los Angeles schools.

Our only barriers are ones that, in a garden, cannot be avoided! Pests and irrigation issues will always pop-up, but we have an educated, dedicated, and hardworking team that is capable of tackling any issues that may arise.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)
  • Community outreach