Helmers garden program receives grant to fund curriculum

Fifth graders from Margo Grisanti's class at Charles Helmers Elementary explore the new garden at the school on Friday afternoon. KATHARINE LOTZE/Signal. 08262016

With a new grant, the Charles Helmers Elementary School garden program will be able to fully fund its school-wide garden curriculum.

This month, the school was awarded an $8,000 grant from the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation to support the program’s “Karden’s Garden School Garden Curriculum” created by Lisa Ely, a documentary television producer and author of the “Kinder Gardens” book series.

“This is huge, this is the heart of the whole program,” Garden Chair Natalie Freed said.  “We had been able to fund all the structures, but didn’t have the funding for the actual curriculum.”

Freed said she applied for the grant through the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation in fall 2016.

“We have been trying to work with people in the community so this was wonderful that Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation funded this,” Freed said.

The garden program officially began at Helmers in February 2017, but had been in the works since September 2015 when Freed worked with the school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to win a $10,000 grant from Seeds of Change for the construction of the garden.

Jon Murphy, a volunteer from the local Lowes, works to stack cement blocks to build a retaining wall for the new garden at Charles Helmers Elementary School in Valencia in August. It is the first elementary school in the valley to have a garden. KATHARINE LOTZE/Signal.

Throughout the past year, volunteers have worked to get the program off the ground by building the garden’s structures and painting the garden’s mural.

Helmers’ garden program is meant to compliment classroom curriculum with lessons on grade-specific concepts in an outdoor setting.

According to the Saugus Union School District, the garden curriculum allows students to reconnect with nature, develop a responsibility for the environment and learn to work within a community.

So far, the garden program has been a huge success among students and teachers.

“It’s been really, really awesome,” Freed said.  “The teachers happy about it and all of the kids love it… the response has been overwhelming positive from everyone.”

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