Edible Growing Ground
Marquez School’s lower Growing Ground was established in 1994 by a dedicated group of parents. It now functions as the center of a seed to table curriculum designed to integrate the process of growing food with subject areas such as math, science, language, art, history and social studies. We are fortunate to have Marie Steckmest, aka Miss Marie, a UC Master Gardener, runs our garden program and the edible growing ground. Marie, a long time Palisades resident, the founder of Palisades Cares, and a former elementary school teacher, was involved as a parent volunteer and with Friends of Marquez and the PTA when her two children attended Marquez. She believes in the importance of growing and eating organic food and has instated the edible gardens organic status.
The hands-on learning that takes place in the garden deepens the students understanding of food security – where food actually comes from, the processes involved in plant growth, soil health and organic maintenance, and harvesting and general gardening know how. In the process, they learn about nutrition and try new foods. The garden program introduces new vocabulary and reinforces or introduces science and social studies concepts. We have two gardening areas. The growing ground on the lower yard has six beds as well as a butterfly garden. There are eight beds on the upper yard, a compost bin area, a fruit tree orchard, and two butterfly/hummingbird garden areas.
Many students receive gardening enrichment classes. As of November 1, 2013, all second, third and fifth grade classes have had some gardening lessons. Two fourth grade classes are also having gardening time. The lower garden is also open at recess two days a week for “gardening club”.
In September and October 2013 many students helped harvest the basil, tomatoes and peppers that grew over the summer. They enjoyed making basil pesto and salsa.Currently the students are planting cool season vegetables in both the upper and lower planting areas. In the lower garden each second grade has a bed. In addition, one bed is dedicated to the third grade garden club. Third, fourth and fifth grade classes are planting on the upper yard. Fifth graders are planting heirloom seeds from the 19th century for their Jeffersonian garden project. Second graders are learning about pollinators as they study the plants and animals in the lower butterfly garden. Third and fourth graders will be learning about the role of pollinators as they plant native plants that attract beneficial insects to the upper edible garden area.
It Takes A Team
The garden program is funded by FOM as well as by community donations. In the last twelve months, we have received generous donations from several organizations:
- Gibson International Realty, owned by Scott Gibson, recently made a donation to the edible garden. Scott and his wife Suzy were actively involved at Marquez when their three daughters attended the school.
- Raw Inspiration, the non-profit operator for California Certified Farmers’ Markets, the operator our local farmers’ market, donated to us last spring. Their “gardens into schools” program helps support organic edible gardens in areas where they have markets.
- Malibu Compost, owned by Marquez and Pali High graduate Randy Ritchie, has generously donated many bags of Malibu Compost, an organic and biodynamic soil enrichment. In addition, Randy and his staff give lessons on composting to parents and students.
- Pacific Palisades Garden Club has donated funds to develop a Native American native plant garden area at the school. The garden will include plants that were used by the native Chumash and Tongva Indians. This area will be instructional for all, but especially for the third graders who study Native Americans in Social Studies.
We have been fortunate to have community and parent volunteers that assist with the edible garden program. Our community volunteers have included Jack Sanders, Gretchen Arnold, Karin Fintzy, Elisa Hunsiker and Carolyn Haselkorn. In addition, we’ve received valuable maintenance assistance from Kurt Bierschenk, Ira Tenenbaum, local Boy Scouts and others. Parents interested in volunteering with gardening or cooking activities should contact Marie.
The Difference The Edible Garden Makes
“My daughter rarely tries new veggies. After her gardening fun with Ms. Marie at school, she came home asking for kale and we made smoothies! It was amazing.”
Lisa Solomon (Marquez parent)
“The Marquez Edible Garden is an incredible gift to our school. This has inspired a love of gardening in our children that will last a lifetime. To work on, grow and eat things that were planted in our own school garden is a beautiful process. Our gratitude to Marie for creating this Eden is immeasurable. This garden enriches the lives of every student. My slogan for Marquez is: Come for the education STAY for the homemade pesto!”
Beverly Jacobs (Marquez parent)
How to help
- Volunteer when your child’s class visits the gardens (talk to the teacher to schedule, oremail Marie)
- Volunteer for gardening club (email Marie).
- Apply for gardening grants (email Marie).
- If you would like to be involved in the school beautification and general gardening team, visit the PTA Beautification page.
To learn what is currently happening or has happened in the school garden, visit the Marquez Garden Blog. Here are some of our Master Gardener Marie Steckmest updates: