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Encouraging Educational Gardens

More schools are developing edible gardens.

"It was a good idea, wasn't it?"

— Valerie Ervin, Councilmember

— Despite a small budget, edible gardens have plotted a rise in the Montgomery County Public Schools curriculum.

"You know this committee has had interest in this for several years. As you know, good things are happening," said County Councilmember Valerie Ervin at the council's Education Subcommittee on Monday, July 22.

Of the 176 public schools, according to testimony at the council's Education Subcommittee, 37 schools are involved with edible gardens. The 21 percent involvement is an increase from 10 percent involvement one year ago. Eight additional schools plan to implement gardens next year, according to council documents prepared by Essie McGuire, legislative analyst for the council, and Laura Jenkins, supervisor of the school system's Outdoor Environmental Education program.

"That is exciting," said Jenkins.

The council's Education Committee held a briefing 10 months ago to discuss ways edible gardens are included in school curriculum as well as actions the school system has taken to facilitate edible gardens in the instructional program.

In the fall of 2012, the Montgomery County PTA organized a group of adults who have the goal to support schools that choose to teach using gardens. The school system has partnered with the Montgomery County Master Gardeners as well as Audubon Naturalist Society.

Jenkin's program works with interested schools to connect them to resources that assist in garden planning and implementation.

The Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core includes opportunities for teachers to use gardens for instruction.

MCPS and the Parks have partnered for four years, and have created two community gardens (Rocking Horse Road Center and Bradley Hills Community Garden) on school sites. MCPS continues to work with the Parks Department to identify additional locations for community gardens on school properties.

Ervin asked the school system about the status of Brickyard Education Farm.

"I know this is a sticky subject with MCPS, and it has to do with Nick's Organic Farm," said Ervin. "Its purpose was to be an educational farm to bring kids out to the farm. I wanted to know where we are with that."

The Board of Education is in the process or revisiting its policy on the use of school surplus sites, said Larry Bowers, chief operating officer of MCPS. "As soon as the policy process is completed, then determination will be made."

Bowers reminded Ervin and the education subcommittee that the Brickyard Educational Farm began only recently, after decades of leasing the land to Nick's Organic Farm.

"But it was a good idea, wasn't it?" said Ervin.