These days in the United States many children spend less time outdoors and have very little familiarity with nature because they spend so much time watching T.V. or on the computer. Author David Louv noted in his 2006 book, The Last Child in the Woods, that “nature deficit syndrome” can lead to childhood obesity, and learning difficulties.
Nature Club, an environmental education program which is part of the City of Santa Monica’s CREST after school program is trying to help its participants appreciate nature to help avoid “nature deficit syndrome.” A big part of the program is having children learn about gardening because it can be done regularly on school campuses.
All of the seven elementary schools that are part of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District have gardens but the one at Roosevelt Elementary School is the largest. Nature Club participants grow mint, cilantro, lettuce, tomatoes, peas and strawberries. Children work in the garden every day after school by watering, weeding, using homemade pesticides, and making compost.
The CREST Supervisor for the program, Concepcion Rechtszaijd, explained in an interview with the Mirror at Roosevelt, that the Nature Club is part of upper CREST, which caters to fourth and fifth graders. “The activities tie into a curriculum, designed by the City, which includes the study of butterflies, wetlands, ocean friends and a visit to the aquarium at the Santa Monica Pier. The program has been part of CREST for two years.
Shabnam Fasa, Roosevelt’s Nature Club leader stated that 45 students participate in the program and the older children work with the younger children from lower CREST in the garden.
Fifth grader Maya Taylor told the Mirror “gardening is really fun because we get to learn how things grow, and it inspires you to have a garden at your house so you can grow your own food.” She has noticed that, “every plant needs a little bit of help to grow,” and then related this observation to herself and other children by stating, “we as children need a little bit of help to grow as children.”
Nasir Grisom, a fourth grader is the official garden photographer. He finds it “fun to see how plants grow.” His “favorite part of gardening is watering the plants because he likes to see the water come out of the hose.”
Other Nature Club activities in addition to gardening are hiking, bird watching, and raising butterflies.
A City of Santa Monica funded group called the Gardening Angeles originally installed the school district’s gardens. The gardens are also part of the regular school curriculum and the school district’s Farmers’ Market School Salad Bar Program.