- Author: Lauren Snowden
Congratulations to the UC Master Gardener Program of Santa Clara County for winning third place in the Search for Excellence (SFE) competition. The SFE is an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the tremendous talents of UC Master Gardener volunteers from across the state. A panel of judges reviewed and scored fourteen county submissions about mission-focused educational and innovative projects performed over the past three years. Santa Clara County's Morning at Martial Cottle Park project took third place by standing out with its quality of impact on the population served. One judge remarked “This project is clearly successful and beloved by the community. Congratulations on a wonderful and highly-sought after project that greatly impacts youth with both gardening and nutrition education.”
Working together with community partners the UC Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County created and taught a science and nutrition-based curricula for field trips at San Jose's Martial Cottel Park. Through dynamic, hands-on, outdoor lessons in a garden setting, second graders take part in a half-day of healthy food and science learning. Local grants helped pay for the cost of transportation for Title 1 schools and schools in low-income neighborhoods.
Centuries old oak trees, native plants, flowers, and raised garden beds serve as the backdrop for this extraordinary four-acre teaching and demonstration garden managed by UC Master Gardener volunteers. Students, teachers and chaperones rotate through four learning stations around the garden, every 25 minutes while being taught about a plants lifecycle, insects, pests vs. beneficial insects, and nutrition through growing and eating healthy fruit and vegetables.
Station 1. Plant life cycle
Photographs and harvested plant materials are arranged on a pizza pan to show the plant lifecycle. Students plant sunflower seeds in a garden bed and in a pot to take home and watch grow.
Station 2. Nutrition
Co-taught with CalFresh Healthy Living nutrition educators, students get to taste and sort vegetables, then plant and label seeds in a salad bowl. “Surprise” vegetables are pulled from a grab-bag to discuss the benefits of eating different colored vegetables.
Station 3. Insect anatomy and adaptation
Through song and drawings student learn about an insect's anatomy. Students get to use playdough to create insects and label its body parts.
Station 4. Pests vs. beneficial insects
Students are shown how to properly collect insects, they are then released into the garden to collect any insects they can find. After proper identification beneficial insects are released.
At the end of the day the students, teachers and UC Master Gardener volunteers gather together to review what they have learned. Families are encouraged to return to the garden anytime during the garden's normal open hours.
Partnering with the Community
Working together with the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, the Santa Clara County Parks Department, CalFresh Healthy Living, and local schools, UC Master Gardener volunteers engaged with low income schools and special needs classes, serving 25 classes and more than 600 students in 24 months. “I have a special needs brother and I think you all did a really good job. Don't change a thing!” said a teacher following a recent field trip. For some students their visit to Martial Cottel Park is their first time in a garden or hearing about how plants and food grow. UC Master Gardener volunteers are thrilled to be able to introduce these students to the wonders of science and horticulture.
Virtual UC Master Gardener Mini Conference, Sept. 29 - Oct. 1
Join us LIVE online for 2020 UC Master Gardener Virtual Conference, where you can learn more about this project directly from the volunteers involved. The conference is free and open to the general public, all levels of gardeners are welcome! Sessions will stream LIVE, Sept. 29 – Oct. 1 to the UC Master Gardener Program's YouTube channel and Facebook page. Registration is not required, just pick and choose what sessions you would like to attend. All session are being recorded and posted on YouTube but we hope you can join in LIVE.
Pssst! UC Master Gardener volunteers can earn continuing education hours for attending, click here for more information.
The UC Master Gardener Program provides the public with UC research-based information about home horticulture, sustainable landscaping, and pest management practices. It is administered by local UCCE county-based offices that are the principal outreach and public service arms of the University's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The UC Master Gardener Program is an example of an effective partnership between the UC Division and passionate volunteers. In exchange for training from the University of California, UCCE Master Gardener volunteers engage the public with timely gardening-related trainings and workshops. With programs based in 51 California counties and 6,297 active members, UCCE Master Gardener volunteers donated 328,540 hours last year and have donated more than 5 million hours since the program inception in 1980.