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How's a school's garden teaches future business and life lessons

Maya and volunteers hosted a community garden day to show the progress.
Maya and volunteers hosted a community garden day to show the progress.Don Simkovich

Elementary school students carrying clipboards and studying the life cycle of plants look every bit like future entrepreneurs in the Jackson Elementary School garden in Altadena.

They engage with instructors among the herbs, berries, and vegetables and learn valuable skills that will serve them well in business and future personal relationships.

Many entrepreneurs I interview got their first business ideas as children and the garden gives students in kindergarten through fifth grade a chance to problem solve and collaborate.

Why the Garden Started

Garden coordinator and parent volunteer Maya Sharpe said creating and expanding the Jackson Elementary was a group effort. "The area was all grass with four beds and we decided to expand. Teachers wanted it and everyone got together to make the idea happen."

Maya says the garden connects kids with nature and gets them outside. "The experience helps them see where food comes from and they learn plant lifecycles and how to eat healthy. They also get ideas about learning to grow their own food."

Maya has a degree in biology but says her passion is community building and she sees the project as a way to bring neighbors and families together.

How the Garden is Used

Jackson Elementary uses project-based learning and theme beds show what plants can be used for specific types of cooking.

"We have some theme beds that students designed," Maya told me. "There's a pie garden with ingredients for pies including blueberries, raspberries, pumpkin, and strawberries. The tea garden has different herbs to use for brewing."

She says the whole school of about 350 students uses the whole garden. Students get a monthly science lesson and a once monthly cooking lesson.

"They've made salads, learned about composting, and they've learned about weather."

Keep the Garden Going

Parents and teachers at Jackson Elementary along Woodbury Drive in Altadena invite others to volunteer or click here and contribute to the "From Seed to Table" program. The campaign deadline is March 17 by noon.