In August of 2013 Palisades Beautiful’s board of directors agreed to sponsor the creation and maintenance of a school garden at Temescal Academy. The campus of this alternative public high school adjoins the much larger one of Palisades Charter High School. Its 75 students, who commute from distant places, were initially enrolled at PaliHigh to get a better education than would be available in their own communities. Counselors then referred them to Temescal Academy because they were either at high-risk of failing and dropping out, or else would benefit socially and academically from being in a protective and much smaller environment.
Administrators and teachers told us that their disadvantaged students were eager to have a small garden where they could grow both flowers and edible plants. (PaliHigh itself has no school garden program.) Many students—the majority of whom are Latino and African-American boys—often ask to do outdoor cleanup tasks. They get physical exercise while improving the appearance of the campus, whose several aging, portable classrooms are surrounded by lawn, trees, and an incongruous tennis court (where students skateboard and shoot baskets). Although the school staff welcome the prospect of having up a school garden, they didn’t have time to set it up themselves, and they can’t take on the responsibility of maintaining it. So Palisades Beautiful has agreed to take charge of the school garden itself, while teachers will introduce garden-connected topics in the different classes there.
On behalf of the new Temescal Academy Garden program—which we’re calling TAG—Palisades BeautIful now seeks some dedicated volunteers, including one or two Master Gardeners who will work with both the students and teachers in integrating what goes on in the garden areas with classroom work. Also, on behalf of TAG, we hope to receive supportive funds for this program. Unlike the other public and the private schools in the Palisades, Temescal Academy lacks the essential contingent of affluent parents who contribute funds to start and then maintain a school garden.
Actually, we consider this TAG start-up as Phase 1 of a much larger and far more ambitious Phase 2: the conversion of the large, grossly untidy, LAUSD-owned lot right next to the school campus on Temescal Canyon Road into a beautiful and productive garden within the Palisades community.