We want a school environment where every side says: Welcome! Children have a right to expect a desirable place and we believe that it is conducive to good learning.
— Calvert Hand, former first-grade teacher & master gardener
Peralta’s gardens are a labor of love, many years in the making. They are the result of a collaboration between many garden advocates: school staff, Peralta families, artists and educators from our extended community, and especially teachers like Calvert Hand, who retired in 2010 after many years leading the transformation of our campus from an asphalt jungle to an oasis.
The gardens are a central part of our campus environment, and shape the students’ learning and play. Because the students are involved in creating their physical environment through our gardening programs, they are more inclined to take care of it: to pick up litter, protect seedlings from a flying basketball, and to carefully water the vegetable beds. Since 2016, Peralta students have grown some of the lettuce for our salad bar right here on campus. Our gardens also incorporate artwork created by students working with local artists, including tiles, murals, fences and an iron gate.
The gardens serve as a refuge on our crowded campus, where playground space is at a premium. They are a place for imaginative play:
We went in (to the gardens) because the big playground was too crazy. We played our own games. There was lots of magic. We found a magic button that you can press to go to an underground place. You have to go through 53 billion doors to get there. It’s very complicated.
— Kindergarten student
At Peralta, we teach students about a full range of environmental issues, whether it be solar energy (in conjunction with our photovoltaic panels from PG&E), waste reduction through the “Green Team” recycling and compost programs in the lunchroom, or nutrition. All of these programs build on each other, teaching our students to be stewards of their environment. The gardens are a fundamental part of their Peralta experience.
Students maintain raised beds designated to their particular classrooms, harvesting the produce and eating it! Many children find that the same vegetables they reject on the dinner table taste delicious when they’ve grown them themselves. They also participate actively with their families in monthly garden work days and in watering the gardens. Finally, they have been involved in the design of all of the school’s garden areas, which we believe gives them ownership and also a sense of responsibility to protect and nurture the gardens.