Project Title: GreenWorks Plant Nursery
Description: This year, thanks to a grant by the Stewardship Council and the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation, we’re able to expand our programming and diversify our crop. Over the 2010-2011 school year we will grow 10,000 native, edible, and appropriate landscaping plants as the students of Liberty High School’s GreenWorks class establish a financially self-sustaining, student-run native plant nursery. Thanks to the talent, time and commitment of John Semenik, Bob Bourgault, Stacy Medeiros, and many others, we are currently developing innovative new high school curriculum.
GreenWorks Nursery Goals
- Grow 10,000 useful plants for the school and community
- Provide sustainability oriented educational curriculum in science, social studies, PE, and art for students
- Train students in job skills
- Encourage youth to enter sustainability-related fields
- Reward student workers with share of business’s income
As participants in GreenWorks, about 60 at-risk youth earn science, social studies and physical education credit over the course of the years while completing projects related to the nursery. School work is split between conceptual development in the classroom and experiential learning in the field.
To date, students are discovering what ’sustainability’ means, in terms of economy, the community, and the environment. So far, we’ve had guest lecturers speak about: herbs, soils types, erosion, soy products. We’ve also gotten off of school grounds three times already, collecting seeds, identifying vegetation, touring drought tolerant landscapes, and meeting the neighbors at Oak Creek Commons. Collaborating with the Innacee Foundation, we’ve analyzed and classified soils, collected soil samples from around Paso Robles, checked out Steinbeck vineyard and Mt. Olive Organic Farm. While major nursery work begins this month, students have helped organize and prepare the nursery site, built with the help of the California Conservation Corp and previous GreenWorks classes. We’ve also planned and broken ground for a worm composting bin that students will use to process all school lunch waste into fertilizer for the nursery!
Indoors, students have organized the class into a business structure, with elected leaders, marketing specialists, production managers, and technical officers. While these roles are flexible and interchangeable to some extent, they allow students to focus on a certain aspect of the nursery work. A mock-monetary system wherein students receive a weekly ‘paycheck’ teaches economic principles and also give students a real stake in the business, as they receive gift cards and scholarships for attendance and performance. The students have already showed how well the system works, winning a Sustainable Business award from the Air Pollution Control District for creating a soy candle business plan. The students are also proud of creating a constitution for the classroom, stating their purpose to learn and improve the community through service as well as laying out student rights, expectations, and consequences. As for science, students are learning essential plant anatomy and creating a selection matrix for the plants we will grow in the nursery.
For those unfamiliar with our sponsors: The Stewardship Council is a private, nonprofit organization which aims to invest in outdoor programs that serve California’s young people. The San Luis Obispo Community Foundation is a public trust established to assist donors in building an enduring source of charitable funds to meet the changing needs and interests of the community. Many thanks these foundations and to the private donors who continue to make this program a reality.
OCE Work History:
Fall 2007 – Original tree donation.
Spring 2010 – Received grants to create nursery.
Project Status: ongoing
Fall 2009 – OCE has reconnected with John Semenick and the GreenWorks program and is launching the an educational collaborative with the school. October 8th marks the beginning of the program–Lionel and John will plant a few dozen oaks along the school’s fences to provide shade, windbreaks, and attractive landscaping. The planting also begins the restoration process of a historically graded creek-side lot behind the school. Over the next years OCE plans to work with the school to carry out the restoration of the site, developing a native plant nursery on the premises and training students in fields related to the work. Click below for a description of our scheduled events at the school:
Summer 2010 – Built 150′ long, 6′ high fence with CCC Summer Corp crew of 10 area high school students. Installed six new hose bibs and a 45′ wall.
Fall 2010 – Began vermicomposting bin that we will use to create fertilizer for our crop, recycling cafeteria lunch scraps.
Winter 2010 – Planted 5000 native plants from locally collected seeds
Spring 2011 – March 8th and we have sprouts from: Lotus scoparius, yarrow, white sage, big leaf maple, various oaks, baby sage! It’s getting warmer… First Solar is sponsoring our first open house!