Ali Goldstein has always aspired to become a gardening teacher. After beginning her journey working on farms to get hands on experience as a gardener, her next stop was with Americorps, where she ran an after school program at Hoover Elementary that included a gardening component. After securing a small amount of funding from the school district, Ali dove into her passion by launching a small-scale gardening project at the elementary school.
Hoover Elementary is a small public elementary school located in West Oakland. As the garden coordinator for the entire school, Ali plans and teaches 12 weekly classes to 315 students from kindergarten through 5th grade. Though the daily gardening sessions are short, they are packed with information and materials that relate to plants, insects, and everything in between. Ali coordinates with the school’s resident science teacher (a position rarely seen in a public elementary school) so that her lessons are congruent with what the students are learning in the classroom and also line up with the California State Science Standards.
PVF recently awarded Ali a Science Resource Grant to attend a school garden training program at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center so that she can learn how to better integrate garden education and ecological literacy into her outdoor classroom. Our Science Resource Grant program supports professional development opportunities like this in addition to materials and excursions related to science and conservation.
Hoover’s garden serves as a natural laboratory where students can apply what they learn and get their hands dirty. The students planted all of the vegetables and flowers present within the tiny but well-used space. During my visit, the 3rd grade students I met talked to me about the butterflies, bees, and ladybugs that live in their garden. They excitedly pointed out radishes, kale, potatoes, strawberries, tulips, and a fig tree. The students get to plant the seeds, tend to the plants, and watch them grow and change over the seasons. This day they were reaping the rewards of being a vegetable gardener by pulling off ripened sugar snap peas to eat. Soon, they will have a salad party with their homegrown butter lettuce.
Ali stated that she hopes to expand the program next year and integrate a nutrition element to the program so that students can better understand how science, gardening, and a healthy body are interconnected. By funding a professional development opportunity for Ali, we believe that she will become an even more effective teacher and gardener. Our Science Resource grants are designed to support the work that teachers like Ali are doing to enhance their teaching and forge a future generation of science-savvy individuals.
Our Science Resource Grant Program provides grants of up to $500 to K-12 teachers in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties in order to enhance their classroom science programs relating to conservation. For more information on the program and how to apply, please visit our website.