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M. Fleming Locker

M. Fleming

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The Peace Garden before, after, and after
The Peace Garden before, after, and after

I am the horticulture and science teacher at Jack London Community Day School. I am also the director of our school’s Peace Garden.

 

When I started at Jack London,l there was not one square inch of soil on the campus. It was a complete dead zone, baking in the heat. We began our garden in 2013 with a few raised beds on top of the asphalt. We had no budget, one very long hose, and a leaky watering can. With a lot of imagination and hard work we've managed to turn our school into a garden of 22 raised beds and 55 fruit trees (many of which are in containers), plus grapes, berries and other edibles, along with pollinator habitat plants. We received a grant from TreePeople to cut two thin strips of asphalt along the sides of our half basketball court, in which are planted 23 fruit trees. With a SEEDS grant from LAUSD, we put in an irrigation system and added several hose bibs. Since our school has no area set aside for a garden, we fit our garden into any available nook and cranny that isn't otherwise restricted, such that our entire campus becomes one contiguous garden. Because of the nature of our garden, we do not teach a traditional agriculture program, instead we focus on innovative, urban agricultural solutions to the challenges of heat and asphalt. One example of our efforts is a grape and passion vine "green wall" that climbs a fishing net to shade our lunch tables. Another is our irrigation system, which consists of bubblers connected to a small swale to distribute the water. Our chain link fence has become a trellis, as we try to transform our campus. This fall, we added a 300 gal. above-ground pond in a stock tank, nestled inside one of our raised beds. Other projects include a green roof on our shipping container shed and installing rain barrels and a vertical garden behind our bungalows. On our "wish list" is replacing some of our asphalt with permeable pavers to mitigate the "lakes" that appear after it rains on our campus. 

 

We began with one horticulture class and that has grown into a 6-course Ornamental Horticulture CTE Career Pathway. Our pathway includes Plant & Soil Science, Environmental Studies, and Physical Geology in addition to Horticulture. We teach practical solutions to the impact of human activities on the environment and bring much needed relief to the urban heat island effect at our school--at the same time making the space productive. Our students do everything--from building the raised beds, to planting, composting, installing drip systems, constructing trellises, and assembling bee hotels. We rely on natural pest management and use no chemicals. Our focus is on environmental sustainability. We teach earth stewardship by studying the science behind sustainable ecosystems and formulating practical strategies to address local needs. We are expanding our curriculum to include public advocacy and civic action as we partner with local government agencies and NGOs.

The Peace Pond
The Peace Pond