Creating an Organic Garden With Schoolchildren in Chile

May 24, 2012

By Elaina Loveland

The following appeared in the May/June issue of International Educator magazine.

Josh KesslerJosh Kessler, a student at Middlebury College, describes his sustainable education abroad experience, as told to IE.

I had some previous experience with sustainability projects but this was the first time that I would be leading an effort to promote sustainability. But once I talked to the director of the school and a chemistry professor, the project evolved into the idea that we would build an organic garden that could supplement the science curriculum by teaching the students about chemistry, the environment, and sustainability. The environmental and sustainability aspects of the project would be particularly important due to the fact that in Chile, especially in public schools, there is little emphasis placed on environmental education.

The garden was completed in phases. At the beginning of the project, I gave some presentations to the students that taught them about some of the scientific elements that we would encounter in the garden (such as the greenhouse effect and the compost system). Afterward we cleared the area of weeds and trash, dug the compost hole, collected organic material, and placed it into the hole. The students would monitor the compost hole over several weeks making sure that the appropriate nitrogen and carbon levels were being maintained. Then we began the construction of the frame for the greenhouse and planted the seeds in little pots. When the frame and compost pile were both ready, we transferred the plants into a hole inside the greenhouse with the composted material. This area would serve as the primary garden, where students would tend to the plants year round.

This project changed my perspective on sustainability because in the same way that the students were learning about how composting works, and the effects of greenhouse gases, I was learning about these topics at a deeper level than I previously had. I really had to research how these processes happened so that I could explain it to the students clearly and answer any potential questions that they would have. With respect to the garden, I had never grown plants or made compost on that type of scale. When I got to see that we could take organic waste and teach with it, I became really interested in sustainability. And not only did we teach with it, but we also ended up making the school environment a little more aesthetically pleasing. So I've come away with a great appreciation for sustainability and sustainability practices. In fact, I'm trying to work with some type of organization that promotes sustainability this summer. Sustainability projects and practices can solve a lot of problems that our society is currently facing. I also think that some sustainable practices will become necessary in our daily lives, so it will be important to educate young people as soon as possible.

Read the rest of "Leaving Light Footprints," the feature article on sustainability in education abroad.


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