Saturday, December 20, 2008

Eco-Holiday Gift: Adopt a Chicken!

Are you still looking for that perfect Holiday gift? Want something that is meaningful, comes with no packaging and won’t end up in the landfill? Here’s an idea . . . Adopt an Urban Sprouts chicken!

Make a gift to Urban Sprouts in honor of a friend or family member. For your gift of $50 or more, you can sponsor one of our chickens, and we’ll send a photo of the rooster or hen you choose to adopt.

Check out glamor shots of the four chickens you can choose from.

You can even become pen pals . . . er, if you live in the Bay Area you can come visit your chicken and even take home an egg!

First, make your gift here.
Then, be sure to email me with the name of your honoree and your rooster or hen of choice.

Want a smaller gift? For your gift of $35, adopt an Earthworm or a Banana Slug (you'll receive their photos, too)!

Happy Holidays! Enjoy the Season!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Read our Fall Newsletter Today!

Extra Extra! Hot off the presses! Our Fall/Winter 2008 Newsletter is ready for you. Follow this link to read about our school gardens, new board & staff, new recipes, how to make a worm bin, volunteers, donors, photos and more! It begins:
"What do School Gardens mean to you? Youth happily pulling carrots from rich, brown earth, smiling and laughing under the sun.
Instinctively, we know this is what youth need, this nourishment for their growing bodies, hearts and minds. At Urban Sprouts, we believe that school gardens can change the world. Really! School gardens can lead to big social change."
--> Read More!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Dare Family Garden

Last Sunday was a clear warm November day. It could not have been a more enjoyable day to meet the Dare family at June Jordan to break ground for their first garden plot at the school site.

The Dare family has joined Urban Sprouts in the multicultural garden project and planted a winter garden of Pac Choi, Broccoli Raab and Snow Peas! It was a great experience to get to know JJSE student, Marcus, amidst the warmth of his family and to watch them work together to create this shared garden. We look forward to the family story about the chosen crops and the recipe to follow for the harvest!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Permaculture & Pears at ISA

I just got back from an inspiring morning at Mary Ann's Gardening Seminar at International Studies Academy (ISA). This class is 90 minutes all devoted to gardening! Today, students read an article on the importance of Compost, and wrote a short essay in response. Then, they went outside and worked on three projects in their magical garden site. This spot has so much potential!

Shaun guest-starred today and helped one group of students to dig a trench, part of the system of swales for the hillside. Guided by Permaculture principles, this technique will prevent erosion and conserve the water that runs down the hillside when it rains. Swales will divert the water via the natural curves of the hill, towards plants instead of straight into the storm drain. Diverting water from storm drains saves the city a lot of headaches, too (you're welcome, SF!).

Another group weeded this planter box of artichokes, while others pruned the squash patch and gathered fallen and trimmed branches. They began building a compost pile, with neat layers of green material (fresh, juicy and nitrogen-rich) alternating with layers of browns (dried, crunchy, carbon-rich). Once our friendly decomposers attack this pile, we'll be set with rich natural fertilizer for the spring.

After all that hard work, we enjoyed some tasty Barlett Pears from the Farmers' Market. Delicious!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Omelette, anyone?

I am VERY excited to report that our lovely chickens at June Jordan School for Equity have laid their first eggs! The students have collected almost a dozen eggs by now, since Ms. Sarah's class found the first one about a week and a half ago. We fried some of the eggs last week, chopped them into bite-sized pieces, and added them to a delicious salad, along with several varieties of lettuce, honey-mustard vinagrette, and Pippin apples from my tree at home.

Partially related to the egg-laying, recent activity in the chicken coop has sparked interesting discussions about puberty and reproduction. The rooster has started getting frisky with the hens (check out the beautiful combs he has developed!) That, combined with the appearance of eggs, has led to conversations about mating, the purpose of eggs, whether or not they might be fertilized or viable to hatch, and much more. I'll leave the rest to your imagination!

More JJSE Chicken Photos and
Read more about raising chickens!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

JJSE Parent Garden

Urban Sprouts is excited to be working with parent groups at their schools. While our programming is effective with youth at school, it is strengthened when parents and families also grow their own food. This year we are looking forward to working with families to develop culturally specific gardens that reflect the rich food heritage and personal stories of the families at our schools!

The other day a June Jordan parent, Romana, came out to plant a winter garden. We talked about the preparation of the crops, Dia de Los Muertos, and Thanksgiving recipes. I look forward to learning more from her about food and cultivating!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Chance for You to make a difference!

If you feel like I do, today’s political attack ads and gloomy financial news on TV have you hungering for meaning. For meaningful conversations about the needs in our families and our communities, and for a meaningful way to make a difference.

A new era is here: we can no longer depend on cheap food made from fossil fuels. It’s up to us, now, to push this movement over the edge: the movement to make fresh, healthy, and locally-grown food a reality for all of our families and our communities.

Remember, our youth are our future green farmers. I’d love for you to see the young people in an Urban Sprouts class. In the garden, they are laughing and smiling, reaching into the soil, pulling out bright orange carrots, and munching on them. They are talking: “organic is cool,” and “mmm . . . crunch, crunch“ can be heard as they stop for a break from the hard work of digging.

When worries creep into my mind—high gas and food prices, and the absolute mess of our fossil fuel-gobbling food system—the tranquility of the school garden and the murmur of cheerful young voices always snap me out of it.

We have SO much work to do! School gardens can transform our nation. School gardens fulfill our youth’s hunger for fresh and healthy food, and for meaningful work that makes their schools and neighborhoods safer, greener, and stronger. School gardens drive the demand for food grown by local farming families right here in our region. In fact, school gardens can help us unlock the big three issues we face: health, dependence on oil, and global warming.

That’s why today, I am inviting YOU, right now, to CLICK HERE and give a gift of $35, $50 or $125.

You can make a difference too, with your investment in our youth—the future of a fresh and local food system for our nation.

I’d like to tell you more about how your support for Urban Sprouts will make a real difference for urban youth. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE -->

Monday, October 20, 2008

SF School Gardens Conference '08!

Urban Sprouts was proud to be part of the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance's 3rd Conference on October 10th-11th. The weekend was like a party for the school garden movement — new things to learn (photos at right and below), like cob building, mosaics, carpentry, and seed saving, and time to spend with old and new friends inspired by our shared mission!

Friday night we heard speaker Richard Louv, who gave us one great pep talk about how our work is changing the world! Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods, describes how youth are suffering psychologically from a lack of connection to nature, which he names nature-deficit disorder.

Louv gave us many powerful examples of how school gardens change lives. He told us that experiences in nature are therapeutic for children with hyperactivity disorders and depression, and they develop executive functioning (self-regulation or self-discipline) in kids. He described studies showing that paved schoolyards bring out aggressive games and leadership styles, namely bullying, while natural play settings bring out imaginative play and creative and collaborative leadership in children. In fact, unstructured nature-based play is so good for children, Louv recommended it as the best way to get your child to a top college. Wow! There wasn't a dry eye in the place.

On Saturday, I led a workshop titled, The Real Impacts of School Gardens: How to Make Change and Measure It. I had 3 whole hours — enough time to lead the group through our Garden-based Education Model in depth, to really understand the model and try it out on their own programs. I had enough time to create a nice flow during the workshop, complete with group games, reflection, and drawing activities! It was a great group and we all learned a lot from each other.

The response to Louv's work and the popularity of my workshop showed how much the school garden movement has matured. We are not just building school gardens because they are nice, pretty, and make kids happy. We are creating major social change. In the last few years, we have shown that school gardens impact children individually — developing children socially and psychologically, helping them succeed in school, and changing their behaviors as they eat more vegetables, exercise more, and become environmental stewards.

But, now we are seeing that school gardens do much, much more. They transform schools from their prison-yard look to a green and inviting environment, drawing families in, to make schools stronger. They make our neighborhoods cleaner, greener and friendlier. AND, school gardens teach our children to be our nation's future farmers. Our youth will enter the green collar economy in a few years, in a world where we will have been forced to design a new food system that is not dependent on fossil fuels. Our children will be growing and consuming local food, right here in our neighborhoods. And you saw it here first, in San Francisco's own schoolyards!

Above: SGFSA Conference organziers, Arden, Sharon & Rachel
Photos by Jennifer Thacher

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Community Day in the Victory Gardens

The San Francisco Civic Center Victory Garden has been stage to a number of activities since it was installed in July 2008. Most recently was the Community Day featuring hands-on educational garden activities, a puppet show on family and healthy eating; short workshops on urban farming and a brass band performance. Urban Sprouts was there demonstrating how to sow seeds for a winter garden.

We had the great fortune of watching Puppet Medicine in action. Puppet Medicine is a puppet theater that creates positive associations with healthy foods for children in underserved areas
It was a true highlight to catch their show about Carlos and Perrito realizing the intent of their favorite junk food "Blinkey Winkey Sprinkle Twinkie" is to make a buck by getting children addicted to sugar and fat.

Big kudos out to Puppet Medicine creator, Tania Padilla. Her creations are brilliant and engaging for all ages. Though I am not sure if the puppet theater will be making an appearance, the next planned Community Days in the Victory Garden are November 1 and November 22, 2008. Check it out!

The brilliant (but evil) Blinkey Winkey.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Youth Teaching Peers to Compost

Urban Sprouts partnered with our friends at Garden for the Environment to lead workshops at Breaking Ground: the Urban Gardening Youth Conference on Saturday, Sept 27th.

The event was held in San Francisco's Mission district and attended by youth from high schools all over the Bay Area! Workshop topics included green jobs, composting, gardening, green building, food systems, and even a bike ride to urban gardens all over the Mission! And the day ended with delicious Mission Pies.

Urban Sprouts' own Walter Pan, a student from our in-class and summer programs, co-led a workshop on composting and vermiculture (worm composting). I'll let Walter tell you about it himself:
Hi, I’m one of the volunteers in this activity. It was really fun getting to teach others about composting. Composting is very important but what I realized in my school was that very few knew about compost. And knowing that other schools care about composting makes me feel well. The crowd and weather was really nice that day as a result there’s this festival-like feeling.

A big Thank You to Walter, all the conference organizers, and to Nicole from the GFE for making our workshops happen!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The President needs a Victory Garden

Watch this video! Sheep on the White House lawn . . . sigh. Think Obama or McCain would turn the White House lawn into a food garden, like we have (temporarily) here in San Francisco? If you wanna see it, you can sign this petition. National Farm to School tells us that Obama has requested their policy about Farm to School to include in his ag policy. We wanna see a US President who inspires us all to eat real, local, and fresh food rather than the "oily" stuff from a can!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Garden Work(out)

An outdoor gymnasium made of recycled materials?! Urban Sprouts thinks this should be on the list of garden projects! Check out Eco Gym at Good Magazine.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Join Us and Invest in Youth as Green Farmers!

Dear Friends,

If you feel like I do, today’s political attack ads and gloomy financial news on TV have you hungering for meaning. For meaningful conversations about the needs in our families and our communities, and for a meaningful way to make a difference.

A new era is here: we can no longer depend on cheap food made from fossil fuels. It’s up to us, now, to push this movement over the edge: the movement to make fresh, healthy, and locally-grown food a reality for all of our families and our communities.

Remember, our youth are our future green farmers. I’d love for you to see the young people in an Urban Sprouts class. In the garden, they are laughing and smiling, reaching into the soil, pulling out bright orange carrots, and munching on them. They are talking: “organic is cool,” and “mmm . . . crunch, crunch“ can be heard as they stop for a break from the hard work of digging.

When worries creep into my mind—high gas and food prices, and the absolute mess of our fossil fuel-gobbling food system—the tranquility of the school garden and the murmur of cheerful young voices always snap me out of it.

We have SO much work to do! School gardens can transform our nation. School gardens fulfill our youth’s hunger for fresh and healthy food, and for meaningful work that makes their schools and neighborhoods safer, greener, and stronger. School gardens drive the demand for food grown by local farming families right here in our region. In fact, school gardens can help us unlock the big three issues we face: health, dependence on oil, and global warming.

That’s why today, I am inviting YOU, right now, to CLICK HERE and give a gift of $35, $50 or $125.

You can make a difference too, with your investment in our youth—the future of a fresh and local food system for our nation.

I’d like to tell you more about how your support for Urban Sprouts will make a real difference for urban youth. Urban Sprouts leads garden-based education classes at public middle and high schools, and in the summer at a local community garden.

Our school garden programs do more than help youth to eat more vegetables and to take care of the environment. Our school gardens change the way young people feel about themselves and their communities. The school garden nurtures self-esteem and shows young people that they can change the world.

Be ready – you will be as moved as I am when you read the words of our city’s own young people, as they make real changes in their lives:

“Eat ‘Food,’ Not too much, Mostly Plants.” I don’t eat so much candy, chips and soda. I try to eat more fruits. I told my mom about a lot of things I learned here, and now she goes to the grocery store and buys more fruits and veggies.

I learned how to use the compost bin and about how everything affects our earth. I want to make sure we reduce, reuse, and recycle. I think that it impacted the middle school youth to do that at home and share with other people, because it impacted me, too.

I am more conscious of the waste I produce, especially petroleum products, and really try hard to reduce and reuse.

I want to be eating more greens EVERYDAY, and less sugar. I plan on sharing my knowledge about nutrition with my parents and brother.

Now I eat more healthy things and want to grow a garden in my backyard.

I’m about to plant my own veggies, so I won’t have to shop! (As much.) I plan to teach my family more about soil health, and about nutrition (how our health relates to the world’s health.)

I want to recycle more and compost instead of put it into the landfill.

My recycling habits have changed and I have already started to teach my family and friends.

New research shows that the difference between youth engaged with nature and youth staring at a TV screen is everything we hope for our children: self-confidence, inner strength, leadership, cooperation, and self-control.

Young people will tell you how much Urban Sprouts gave their talents and strengths a chance to shine:

Everyone in the program was touched and learned new things in different ways.

There were so many different activities around the garden so each person could find their strength or something they really enjoy doing (like the pros at shoveling manure and compost!)

I liked taking the younger youth on the garden tour because you can tell that they were getting excited and wanted to touch and taste everything, and then you get to see all they learned.

When we went on the field trip, myself and other kids were saying that they weren’t going to milk the goats. By the end I heard them talking about how they never did that before, but they did it anyways because they might never get another chance.

I was proud to see and hear youth sharing stories and their knowledge about the program with their families.

But, not just any school garden program can achieve these inspiring results for youth and communities. You need the right ingredients, or program elements, to achieve change. That’s why Urban Sprouts uses a research-tested program model, or ‘recipe for success.’

As you may know, Urban Sprouts grew out of a doctoral thesis project conducted during the 2003-04 school year. This theory-based research has guided us from the beginning, ensuring our high level of effectiveness.

Since 2003, over 1,700 youth have benefited from hands-on garden learning by growing, harvesting and eating their own vegetables. We’ve expanded to reach over 750 youth each year at six public schools: Aptos Middle School, Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, International Studies Academy, June Jordan School for Equity, San Francisco Community School, and Ida B. Wells Continuation High School. At these schools, over 60% of youth are from low-income families and over 95% are youth of color.

Plus, families in our urban neighborhoods have to walk miles to buy fresh and locally-grown food. San Francisco’s southeast communities have four times more fast food restaurants and liquor stores than they have grocery stores.

That’s why Urban Sprouts has partnered with school families to change the food environment—by bringing fresh, healthy and organic food to youth and their families right at school.

Now, Urban Sprouts supports youth and their families in four ways:

  • Garden-based Science class: Over 750 students experience hands-on lessons in environmental science and nutrition, garden work projects, and cooking projects, led by Urban Sprouts’ Garden Educators together with classroom teachers and volunteers.
  • Summer Program: Each summer 20 youth enjoy two weeks of intensive gardening, cooking, eating and learning about a healthy food system. At San Francisco’s Garden for the Environment, youth learn skills, prepare a healthy lunch every day, and take home their new learning to help their families eat better and protect the environment.
  • Family Programs: Our parent workshops are growing into Internships for school family members: parents will grow their own cultural foods in family plots within school garden sites! Interns receive resources and support to make family food access a reality.
  • School Food and Farm Connection: Farm field trips show youth a healthy food system: goats, chickens, and plants work together in natural cycles, and food travels a short distance to reach our plate. Urban Sprouts helps our school partners advocate to bring local and fresh food into school cafeterias, through partnerships at the local, state and regional levels. Our farm-to-school partners show potential results like regional environmental health and state-wide economic growth.

And now, this is where you come in: we need you to help us reach our vision!

CLICK HERE to make an investment in Urban Sprouts today, and help us build a world where all youth and families can enjoy the fresh, organic food and the connection to nature we need to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

Please join us in this meaningful work, by sending your donation today.

Thank you very much.


Abby R. Jaramillo, abby AT urbansprouts DOT org
Executive Director

P.S. We need you! Along with your gift, we’d love your ideas! You can also bring your company out for a garden volunteer day or serve on our board. Email me and I'd love to talk more!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The West's Farm to School Assembly

Last Friday I attended the Western Region Assembly for Farm to School, hosted by the lovely Michelle Ratcliffe at Ecotrust in Portland, OR. She/Ecotrust serve as the western region lead for the National Farm to School Network.

Sound like another boring meeting? NOPE! This was truly inspiring and exciting—more like a party than a meeting! First of all, many states arrived with GOOD NEWS! (Watch out San Francisco - we want to be cutting edge, but we are SO behind the times!) Representatives from Oregon, Washington and Montana shared new policies that they have passed in support of school gardens and farm-to-school programs. Their states are MAKING IT HAPPEN! Students are learning to love veggies by growing their own food, and school cafeterias are serving products grown and prepared fresh from their local farms, while strengthening the local economy at the same time. We even got to taste some local school food. Yum!

The major theme of the meeting was, with all this energy and forward momentum, how do we "think like a region" and support each other to make our efforts even stronger and more impacting! Any thoughts, all you westerners?

Also, I finally met in person many of my role models, like Rose Hayden-Smith of Victory Gardens fame, and Sandy Curwood, Director of Food Services for the Ventura public schools (who has made huge strides in getting local farms' fresh food into the school cafeterias!). Plus I spent time with many other amazing Farm-to-Schoolers representing California, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. San Francisco was quite conspicuously missing, while Davis, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles were out in full force!

For a great overview of the research to date in support of school gardens and farm to school programs follow these links. (If anyone tells you it's not working, don't believe em!!)

And, join our new Facebook group to keep in touch! Props to everyone who is creating the Farm to School revolution!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Community is a Verb

Yesterday was quite a day for Urban Sprouts staff. For some the day started before 8AM and ended well after 9PM. We were immersed in the education and community connection around our gardens. We had parent meetings to plan family gardens in order to bring healthy fresh and organic produce to the homes of our students. We were teaching rare and precious lessons about food systems. We were attending Back to School Night as part of the community that surrounds each child to help them succeed in a system that truly seems designed to work against that aim.

In honor of the hard work, dedication and passion that was witnessed in a single day, Urban Sprouts would like to share the video Community is a Verb:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Chicken N Sprouts

Urban Sprouts got "googled" this past summer. Hand On Bay Area coordinated a team of Google Serve folks to come out and lend a hand in the garden. They were fantastic! Each team was creative and diligent in their effort. We would especially like to thank the team for repairing our tool shed. Then, being Google, they posted footage of their volunteer day on You Tube. Check it out! Thanks everyone!!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Slow Food Soapbox

The frenetic labor day weekend included the Slow Food Nation event in San Francisco. The event included four days of panels discussions, meetings, performances and of course, FOOD! Urban Sprouts' highlight was working with a group of youth involved in our work, the work of Next Course and the work of Pie Ranch, to hold a discussion on a topic important to them all, school food.

During Changemakers Day, a series of panel discussions focused on bringing professionals in the field of sustainable food systems together, Slow Food San Francisco featured a clever "soapbox" stage centered in the City Hall Victory Garden from which advocates, performers, youth and others could engage the surrounding attendees. Following the eloquent speaker and author, David Mas Masumoto, five youth staged a conversation around a cafeteria table. The youth sat at the table with empty lunch trays that seemed to symbolize how school food lacks substance to them. From the table, the youth shared with the audience why they often, if not always, choose not to eat the school meals offered through the San Francisco Unified School District. As they shared personal stories about when they enjoyed food and the meaning it has to them, each youth exchanged their empty lunch tray for an item that connected back to their story. One student held up corn, another a fork from her grandmothers kitchen, and another a fresh green apple.

The youth shared touching stories about how the hands on experience of cooking with family and fellow students brought their closer together; how cooking for others brought a sense of joy and fulfillment to them; how food that they have grown holds value and meaning that makes them enjoy fresh food profoundly; and how food can remind them of people they love and miss.

They closed their discussion with commentary on how they appreciate the hard work of the SFUSD to bring them school meals that meet nutrition standards but that they believe we all can work as a community to provide school meals that students want to eat; meals that respect their needs for fresh fruits and vegetables; meals that reflect the values of a healthy food system; meals that they can enjoy, and as Slow Food celebrity Alice Waters also believes in, meals they can take pleasure in.

Urban Sprouts would like to thank Andy, David, Ruby, Isadora, and Anh for their courage and creativity in presenting at Soapbox and Next Course and Pie Ranch for co-organizing this event.
Thank you everyone!!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

School Gardens on the Radio

Check out this feature story about School Gardens in San Francisco public schools on KALW's new local radio news show!
You can listen right on the website.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The International Studies Academy Garden

With the gracious help of LoopNet volunteers, Urban Sprouts broke ground at the new International Studies Academy (ISA) garden! Folks from LoopNet worked long and hard to repair the front garden:

They also dug deep in ground so hard and full of rocks that they were able to line a new pumpkin patch with all the large rocks they pulled out of the ground. Yet another group built a chicken tractor and another repaired tool sheds and the existing beds. We had many supportive and enthusiastic teachers, staff and parents stop by and encourage our work. Thank you LoopNet! Thank you Darren at SF School Volunteers for bringing us all together. And thank you Principal Sanderson for inviting us to be at ISA!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Real Victories: My day at the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden with Urban Sprouts alums

Top: Jose, Vera, Lisa, and Mario in the Victory Garden

Bottom: Urban Sprouts hanging out in Mayor Gavin Newsom's office. Mario, when you become mayor, you will remember to put a garden in every school, right?

Okay, by now everyone and their grandmother has heard about the Slow Food Nation conference, which is quickly approaching – the first such event in the country! I think that most of us in the urban & sustainable agriculture / school garden worlds are excited that these issues are now garnering deserved notoriety.

While most of the workshops require that you purchase tickets, one of the most exciting programs of the conference is free to all – the incredible Victory Garden currently installed at Civic Center Plaza. If you haven't seen it, try to visit soon, because in September the garden will be dismantled and all the veggies will be given to charity.

Last week, I took two Urban Sprouts students from MLK Middle School on a tour of the Victory Garden, City Hall, and the Civic Center Farmer’s Market. We started off at the farmer's market, sampling the fresh fare and chatting with vendors. I was SO proud when the boys, both alums of our Summer Program, were filled with questions about the produce - they asked the beekeepers about how to extract honey, learned how to select the sweetest peaches, and tried new and pungent cheeses. Jose's pleas for soda aside, the boys were engaged and excited to be amidst the activity of the market. At one point Mario said to me, "I always thought this place looked boring from the outside, but this is so much fun!" Both of them went home with summer berries and white nectarines.

Afterwards, we went on a brief walk around City Hall, where I interned this summer in the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services. The highlight was when my former supervisor, Mike Farrah, took us to see Gavin Newsom's office (who was away on his honeymoon). The boys had a blast sitting in "Gav's" chair!

We finished the afternoon in the Victory Garden with a picnic lunch.
While the garden is indeed lovely, and amazingly prolific, its beauty goes beyond its physical features. Whenever I visit the garden, I am blown away to see how people respond to it – visitors are genuinely curious and delighted to see food growing in front of City Hall. It is a bold statement and shows how urban farming is finally being embraced by a mainstream audience. The students were impressed by the volume of food that was being grown in a limited space (and in our unpredictable San Francisco climate, no less!) By the end of the day, they had the same question that has been on everybody's mind: why can't this garden be a permanent part of the Civic Center?

For more information on the Slow Food Nation event and the Victory Garden Movement:

Slow Food Nation
Victory Gardens 2008+
Garden for the Environment

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

End-of-Summer News

Just a few bits of news in the Urban Sprouts world that I didn't want you to miss!
Summer Team: Suzi, Julius, Vilma, Lisa, DeAdrienne, Sophia, Abby.
Missing: Esperanza, Nicole, Cesia.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Former Staff: Lisa Chen

Lisa Chen
Garden Educator, Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School & Ida B Wells High School.

Lisa served as an Urban Sprouts Garden Educator during the 2007-2008 school year. When she joined us, she introduced herself in this way: "I am delighted to join Urban Sprouts as a Garden Educator! I have worked with youth for the past six years. During my time as an Architecture student at UC Berkeley, I served as an AmeriCorps member at Berkeley High School, providing tutoring and college counseling. After I graduated I became interested in outdoor education and went on to develop community programs at Hidden Villa, a non-profit organic farm and wilderness preserve in Los Altos Hills. Afterwards, I spent a year living in Costa Rica and Ecuador. In Costa Rica I worked as a classroom aide at the Cloud Forest School, a bilingual environmental education school in Monteverde, and in Ecuador I supported sustainable agriculture projects in rural and indigenous communities. These experiences in nature profoundly affected me, and I believe that everyone deserves this opportunity to be outdoors and to learn about how we are connected to the earth and to each other."

Now Lisa serves as a member of our Advisory Board, where she still contributes her wide variety of amazing skills and shares her commitment to our city's youth!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Name a Chicken Contest!

The Urban Sprouts chicken coop at June Jordan School for Equity is completed and the lovely hens are doing well! However our hens remain nameless. We are inviting you, our reader, to submit names for the birds. Just submit your suggested names in the comments. At the beginning of the Fall 2008 school year, students in the Urban Sprouts Food Systems class will select the winning names. We even have little prizes for those whose name have been selected.

Pictures of the hens to be named have been provided below for inspiration. Urban Sprouts would like to thank the many people that helped implement the chicken coop! A big thank you goes to those nailed, drilled, sawed, climbed, carried,
balanced, and dug to make it happen: Reggie, Juan Carlos, JJSE students and teachers, Isadora, Kevin and the Google Serve group! Thank you!!

Breed: Cuckoo Maran; Likes: spending early mornings looking for grubs

Breed: Plymouth Barred Rock; Likes: imperiously watching other hens from the perch

Breed: Blue Andalusian; Likes: dancing and singing into the wee hours

Breed: Araucana; Likes: running in open spaces

Breed: Silver Laced Wyandotte; Likes: having her picture taken...and cooked rice

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Summer Program '08!

We are having so much fun at the Urban Sprouts and Garden for the Environment Summer Program, now in the middle of our second week. The 21 youth—16 middle school youth and 5 high school youth staff—are working in the garden, cooking lunch from garden-grown produce, and learning all about organic gardening, recycling & composting, nutrition, and where food comes from!

Yesterday we took a field trip to Slide Ranch in Muir Beach, across the Golden Gate Bridge. There, we milked goats, handled chickens, and explored the gardens.

Check out our photos to see everything we've been up to!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

New Urban Sprouts T-shirts!

Announcing the newest addition to the Urban Sprouts line, Summer Program t-shirts! Choose from two designs—flowers or beets—both created by Lisa Chen.

The elbow-length raglan tee from American Apparel is available in pink or baby blue, or choose the organic cotton tee. Click on the items above or visit our store on Cafe Press and be the first on your block to show them off!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Our Results: 2007-2008

Outcomes and Activities:
During the 2007-2008 school year, Urban Sprouts planned to reach 500 students in the 6th through 12th grades at five San Francisco public schools serving the city’s most under-served neighborhoods.

Urban Sprouts greatly surpassed this goal, reaching a total of 728 students this year. Urban Sprouts partnered with five schools: Aptos Middle School, Excelsior Middle School, Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Middle School, June Jordan School for Equity, and Ida B. Wells Continuation High School. These schools serve San Francisco neighborhoods including the OMI/Excelsior, Sunnydale, Visitacion Valley, Portola, Bayview-Hunters Point, and Western Addition. Of students reached, 64% were low-income students, 96% were youth of color, and 52% were defined as educationally disadvantaged by the San Francisco Unified School District.

We provided the following activities at our five school sites:

In class Garden-based Education. Over 688 students participated in Urban Sprouts’ core garden-based education
program that takes place during science classes. The garden-based classes meet for one hour every other week throughout the school year for a total of 20 hours of participation for every student. Each session is led by the Garden Educator and includes interactive academic learning and garden work. Every student experienced the full process of planting, growing, harvesting and eating crops from the school garden at least three times during the school year. By participating in the entire process, students have strengthened their ecoliteracy and environmental responsibility.

An additional 18 high school students at June Jordan School for Equity participated in a semester-long elective course focused entirely on sustainable agriculture and food production. This garden-based curriculum included weekly lessons that took place in the school garden, curriculum on nutrition, food production, distribution and marketing, food policy, farm economics, and the environmental impact of agriculture, as well as a farm field trip to Hidden Villa Ranch in Los Altos, California.

Garden-based Youth Leadership.
We partnered with teachers and students to identify leadership opportunities for smaller groups of students, to engage more intensively with the garden and to lead related school-wide activities. These opportunities involved 15 students:
  • Excelsior Middle School: Seven students in Urban Sprouts’ after school program created, implemented and evaluated a school-wide recycling program. Students led a waste diversion campaign that included posters, monitoring recycling bins at lunch, and calculating the school’s waste diversion percentage, with support from San Francisco’s Department of the Environment.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School: Eight students in Urban Sprouts’ after school Garden Club conducted an Earth Day awareness campaign. Students from all of MLK’s 6th and 7th grade classes decorated paper shopping bags with messages about Earth Day and about reusing and recycling waste materials. The after school Garden Club brought the bags to a local supermarket on Earth Day and gave them out to shoppers to reuse for their shopping.

Summer Program. For the second summer, Urban Sprouts partnered with the Garden for the Environment (GFE) to host a two-week summer program for 21 youth, meeting for four hours each day at the GFE. Urban Sprouts trained and supervised 5 high school students who served as staff for the 16 middle school-aged participants. The Summer Program included: daily garden work; an intensive curriculum on gardening, waste diversion, nutrition and sustainable agriculture; daily harvest and preparation of a healthy lunch, and the creation of a culminating event in which youth shared their learning with their families and friends and created take-home actions to apply their learning at home (examples included kits for home recycling, composting, and gardening).
Family Programming. Our school partners identified increased parent engagement as a major goal, and encouraged Urban Sprouts to utilize the school garden for this purpose. In addition, changes in youth attitudes and behaviors of environmental responsibility achieve greater impact with parent support and reinforcement at home. Urban Sprouts participated in three school-wide events for parents and held twelve meetings and workshops, engaging 63 school parents with the school garden and with cooking projects using garden-grown produce.

Due to feedback from school parents, we are redesigning the format of this program. During the next school year, family programming will include family garden plots within school gardens, in which families will showcase cultural gardening practices while producing food for their own consumption. The new garden plots will be installed in October 2008 with support from Clif Bar.

School Farm and Food Connection.
In order to connect the school community to local farms and healthy food options, Urban Sprouts took four groups of students on farm field trips to Hidden Villa Ranch in Los Altos, California and to Slide Ranch in Muir Beach, California. In addition, we helped students and parents at Excelsior Middle School to design and practice preparing healthy meals made from fresh produce, so the group could prepare these meals while traveling on a school field trip to Washington, DC. Lastly, Urban Sprouts participated in efforts to revise the SFUSD Wellness Policy through the Student Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee, in order to continually increase opportunities for students district-wide to improve their health, wellness and the environmental impact of their schools.

Events. During the 2007-08 school year, Urban Sprouts hosted these community-wide events to build involvement in the garden program:
  • Salad Days: students at all three middle schools harvested, prepared and served school-grown salads to the entire school at lunch;
  • Garden Work Parties: students and staff at each school site hosted garden work days, including gardening, harvesting, cooking, and other activities, attended by students, families, teachers and community members.
Volunteers. Urban Sprouts recruited community members to develop and maintain the gardens through work days, and to volunteer in teachers’ classrooms during garden-based lessons. Classroom volunteers lowered the youth-adult ratio from as high as 35:1 to as low as 5:1. In total, 22 volunteers provided over 400 hours of support to students in the school garden, while 110 volunteers including employee groups from Act Now, Clif Bar, Skywire, Sutter Health, and Google contributed 440 hours helping to build wheelchair-accessible garden beds, worm bins, and a new chicken coop in the garden.

Evaluation and Outcomes:
Each year, Urban Sprouts conducts surveys and focus groups to determine the degree of students’ new knowledge, attitudes and behaviors after participating in our programs. Urban Sprouts’ objectives include increases in students’ ecoliteracy, environmental awareness and preferences for consuming fruits and vegetables as a result of participating in our programs.

This year, Urban Sprouts implemented an online pre- and post-test survey questionnaire, student focus groups and key informant interviews. This data is currently being analyzed by Urban Sprouts’ Evaluation Specialist, Michelle M. Ratcliffe, Ph.D. We will share our results on our website as soon as they are complete.

Currently, we have results of Urban Sprouts’ program evaluation conducted by Dr. Ratcliffe from 2004 to 2006 in our middle school programs. We have exciting results to share. Urban Sprouts’ evaluation showed that the garden-based learning experiences:
  • Influenced the school’s curricular, physical and social learning environments.
  • Affected students’ environment-related skills and knowledge, and attitudes and preferences towards the environment.
  • Provided opportunities for students to begin to make sense of the natural world and their relationship to it.
  • Influenced students’ social and moral development including strengthening their resiliency traits of pride, patience, hard work, team work, and motivation.
  • Influenced students’ willingness to try new foods, decreased their consumption of less nutritious foods, and increased their physical activity level.
  • Participating students increased their preferences for a variety of vegetables, the variety of vegetables they eat and how often they eat them.