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By Corie Maue, Temecula
Thousands of Temecula area children are back in school this week (did someone cue the Hallelujah Chorus?), getting back into the swing of things with math, language arts and science. Thanks to one parent volunteer, Temecula’s Ysabel Barnett Elementary School students are looking forward to digging in–into the dirt, that is.
Launched in 2011 by Steve Massa, the KinderGarden Program is one of 22 master gardening programs in the TVUSD. With a some help from Temecula Valley Slow Food, the PTO, and co-volunteer Rachel Ford, Massa shares his love of all things growing with the students every month.
“Our world has more people and fewer farmers than ever,” said Massa. “My goal is to not only teach the kids where food comes from, but to inspire them to grow food to sustain themselves and others.”
Massa chooses a different theme each month and introduces it to the children in a way that compliments the school curriculum.
“We modify the curriculum to suit each grade level,” Massa said. “The little guys get to be ‘herb detectives’ and the older kids get to plant and harvest their very own plot. The older they are, the more work they do.” he said with a chuckle.
Living in such a rich agricultural area makes it easy for Massa to invite guest speakers to share their knowledge with the students.
In December, the folks from Old Town Temecula Spice Merchant were in the garden teaching the children about where herbs and spices come from.
“We are able to incorporate geography, language arts, science and so more into our garden time,” said Massa. “The kids are learning words like ‘powdered, granulated, fine, coarse’ in addition to doing the really cool stuff like getting dirty.”
In January, 2014, Temecula Valley Olive Oil Company will be in the garden to talk about–what else?–olives and olive oil.
“We are so thankful for the participation from area farmers and merchants,” said Massa. “They show the kids that there are real world applications for farming.”
Interactivity is the key to the garden program’s success.
“We could talk about salt, spices, or olive oil all day with no real impact, but when the kids get to see, touch, feel and taste the subject matter, the lesson comes alive,” Massa said, beaming.
His passion for the program is evident. So much so that he is driven to share his expertise with other schools as well.
“Any local school that is interested in starting a similar program should absolutely contact me,” said Massa.
Barnett Principal Chris Dixon could not agree more. “Our KinderGarden club has been a wonderful program here,” he said. “It provides students with real world, hands on science activities and introduces them to the importance of having living things around them.”
Story by Corie Maue
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