Del Mar Hills Academy’s garden helping young minds bloom
By Marlena Chavira-Medford
The Discovery Gardens at Del Mar Hills Academy is lush with foliage, thanks to a few green thumbs — some very small green thumbs, to be exact. This garden patch serves as a living classroom for the kids, so getting those little hands dirty is the whole point.
“Being in the garden gives these kids hands-on, five-sense learning, which is so important,” said art teacher Nicole Nelson, who started the garden about six years ago. “They can learn about where their food comes from by actually growing it, or if they see butterflies, that’s a science lesson.”
Surrounded by kids, parents and volunteers toting shovels and rakes on a recent Friday afternoon, the garden is bustling with activity. A few months ago, however, the picture was different. The garden had begun to fall into neglect once Nelson had to start splitting her time between two schools. Fortunately, a couple of nearby neighbors with the Friendship Gardeners of Del Mar took note and offered to roll up their sleeves and help. The volunteers have been spending weeks restoring the plot, “working behind the scenes like little garden angles,” Nelson said.
“The fact that these volunteers took it upon themselves to contact the school and offer to help speaks volumes about this neighborhood,” said principal Susan Fitzpatrick. “This is a true community school, and this community highly values these kids learning about nature, and respecting this planet.”
The Del Mar Garden Club also gave a $200 grant for the garden. The garden is used to enhance textbook curriculum. For example, kids can learn about history via the Native American heritage patch, or about science by interacting with butterflies and earthworms, or about art while painting outdoors in the Monet color patch, or about nutrition by growing veggies.
“This really is all about the kids,” Fitzpatrick said. “This is a community focused on our kids, and we’re very thankful for that.”
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