Bright orange pumpkins, pale honeydew melons, dark green bell peppers, striped cucumber melons and the aroma of basil and mint enrich the landscape of the El Morro Elementary School Garden.
At the school dismissal bell, Garden Club students brimming with enthusiasm enter the garden gates.
Parent and garden volunteer Sharael Kolberg awaits with an interesting array of activities that help also enrich students’ understanding of math, science, reading, writing and the creative arts. Choices include working in the garden with activities such as planting, weeding or harvesting or completing a garden-themed, hands-on activity. Students can also choose to participate in supervised “free play” using a bin of educational garden supplies such as books, journals, magnifying glasses, and art supplies.
Principal Chris Duddy values the educational experiences the program provides. “The garden is like an outdoor classroom and supports our teachers as they teach science standards about the plant life cycle.”
The after-school program is offered in three sessions per year and once a month Kolberg teaches Funday Monday in the garden for all interested El Morro students.
This is her second year volunteering in the garden, whose supporters include Transition Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach Garden Club, Laguna Beach County Water District, Waste Management of Orange County, Laguna Beach Tommy Bahama, Crystal Cove State Park and the PTA. The Garden Club planted a navel orange tree that was donated by the Orange County Great Park.
Enhancing the students’ educational experience are volunteer master gardeners Gena St. Denis Way and Elaine Rudin, plus guest speakers.
Patience and teamwork are components of the learning experience. Last spring the seeds students planted yielded eight large pumpkins this fall. At a recent meeting, Kolberg and Garden Club students presented the school board with one of the pumpkins.
Amidst the energetic activity are quiet moments of magic; students eating fresh fruit harvested from the garden, watching a big grasshopper sitting on a strawberry plant.
“In the El Morro garden, not only do the veggies grow, but the children do too,” she said.