Echo Canyon Garden Program

Chris Nelson is just one of many chefs who have participated in the Chef in the Garden Program at Echo Canyon. Nelson taught students how to properly catch and cook an octopus. 

Ingleside Middle School’s Garden Club got started in October 2014 thanks to a co-written grant by local garden expert Barbara Halden and Ingleside teacher Susan Leonard. The student-directed after school club teaches members how to grow and harvest plants organically. 

Right now, the club is growing broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, lettuce and other produce, including herbs. Leonard, a continuing teacher sponsor for the club, explains that students do more than simply plant produce in the gardens. 

“Students also made a healthier version of ranch dressing utilizing fresh dill and broccoli they had grown. Students also get to take home fresh vegetables on a weekly basis. They also made butter and added fresh herbs to take home and share with their families,” Leonard said. 

Garden Club students are truly excited to be a part of this community. Eighth grader Dakota Clark joined, “Because it sounded fun.” Cristian Zamora, also an eighth grader, said the best part of the club is, “Seeing the process of growing the food we eat.” 

Ingleside is making a big difference not only in how these students view produce, but how they handle growing their very own food. 

The Hopi Elementary Garden Club, although on break from actively meeting at the moment due to the school moving to a new facility, seeks to involve all students. 

PTA President Kyle Christensen said, “Every year, the chair of the Garden Club helps guide volunteers from all of the classrooms by going into the classroom each month with a garden-inspired lesson and taking the kids out to the plot to grow something that belongs to their own class.” 

Because of the move to its new building this year, Hopi is looking for a new person to serve as garden chair and relaunch the garden program at Hopi’s new location. 

Echo Canyon School’s Garden Program is different than what you’d find at other schools. Rather than having a garden club, Echo Canyon uses its eight gardens to reinforce curriculum with hands-on learning and experience. 

These gardens include an array of plants such as succulents, fruits and flowers, as well as habitats for tortoises, butterflies and hummingbirds. The school’s Master Gardner, Lou Rodarte, alongside her co-gardener, Ann, said, “The whole school actively plays a role in the gardening activities either through direct planting or through the Chef in the Garden activities using the harvested produce.” 

The Chef in the Garden program, where local chefs utilize the produce harvested in the gardens to create a simple dish, is unique to Echo Canyon. 

“A week ago, sixth graders were eating sautéed octopus over a salad with fennel and an orange juice and olive oil dressing. FnB Restaurant Chef Charleen Badman, who is on campus weekly, brought Chris Nelson, of Nelson’s Meat & Fish, to talk about catching octopuses sustainably,” Rodarte said. 

“The students were introduced to seafood sustainability and they practiced writing through a new Journaling program introduced this year in partnership with ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and the School of Sustainability.” 

The program’s events take place weekly for students and parents. 

For more information on the schools’ gardening programs, visit their PTO websites or their susd.org pages.