In 2006 the newly formed booster club, Friends of Carthay Center, wrote a grant to fund the construction of the Garden of Possibilities. This group, comprised of parents and community members, conceptualized the garden as a tool to enrich the students learning and to engage school families and neighbors in service to their community.
With a $10,000 matching Beautification Grant from the City of Los Angeles, parents, teachers, students, community and two key Master Gardeners transformed an unused, asphalted area of the campus into a vibrant garden over the course of a year.
The Carthay garden represents a successful partnership between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Carthay community. Then, Local District 4 Superintendent, Richard Alonzo rallied support for the project and committed a bobcat crew to help the community break compacted soil and grade the area. District plumbers also pitched in, providing parts for and installation of new hose bibs and irrigation valves.
Once asphalt was removed and this work completed, community workdays were scheduled and volunteers moved more than 60 tons of donated topsoil and organic compost (Vons Grocery Stores) in wheelbarrows into the area that would become the garden.
The garden Carthay Center is approximately 5,000 sq ft, and is located just off the main play yard. There is one raised bed dedicated for use by each grade level and a variety of in-ground beds. There are several different gardens within the garden proper including: a stone fruit orchard (all varieties bear fruit only during the school year), Citrus Orchard, Tropical Garden, Butterfly Garden and Poetry Garden.
Plantings change with the season, but the garden always has a variety of flowers and herbs. Some of the favorite things grown by Carthay students are: papaya, bittermelon, luffah, banana varieties, grapes, pea shoots, pumpkins, mulberrys, watermelon, mustard greens, and arugula flowers. One student favorite is the "cut and come again" salad bed that always has a variety of greens.
The Garden project has helped re-orient the school as a community hub. The surrounding neighborhood supports the garden . and the school - both with financial contributions (local businesses, neighborhood associations & councils, etc) and through service. Through the garden activities the community is invited onto the campus and sees the school at a resource.
The garden also serves as an educational resource to the community through the Saturdays in the Garden workshops, which offer instruction to the community on fruit tree pruning, container gardening, composting, etc.
Restoring green on the Carthay campus helps school families and neighbors feel more connected to each other, and creates a sense of community.
In the years following its construction, the Garden of Possibilities has become an integral part of the school.s identity. Carthay teachers and administrators chose to make the garden the centerpiece of the new School for Advanced studies program. In 2009 Carthay Center contracted STAR Science to develop a pilot Garden Science curriculum that links California State Science Standards to hands-on, outdoor learning. This parent-funded program is a collaboration between Carthay Teachers, STAR Science Teachers and Master Gardeners.
The garden program at Carthay continues to .grow. as its success supporting curriculum has proven to be a real asset. The garden has energized learning on campus. The students love science and have become environmental stewards, healthier eaters, and great observers of the natural world.
Survey your teachers & community: Although when initially surveyed some teachers objected to the project for a variety of reasons including - financial . .we can.t even afford copy paper, why are we building a garden?. .There will be bees and other insects, my students are afraid of them.. .Our students suffer from asthma and allergies . having a garden will exacerbate these health issues.. It is important to survey stakeholders. These concerns can be addressed in the design and programming of the garden project.
These were all reasons to build the garden, and being aware of concerns informed the design and the approach to the garden program. The garden has increased support for the school from the community and as a result the school is much better funded. Students have learned through direct observation about pollination (a fourth grade standard), about insect life cycles . and in doing so have learned about interdependence and have grown to appreciate the benefits of these creatures and not to fear them. More trees and green provide for cleaner air and reduced temperatures on campus . which makes a much healthier environment. The success of the garden project is that it represents a shift from short-term solutions to perceived environmental or funding problems to a broader vision of a healthier and more sustainable community.