By Marsha Sandman | CNA Media Team
Congenial and engaging, Zoe Dawson is the garden coordinator at Vernon IB World School at 2044 N.E. Killingsworth St.
Zoe is passionate about the beautiful garden that’s vibrant and mature with blueberry bushes, grape vines, strawberries, apple and Asian pear trees, 30 raised vegetable beds and vermicomposting worm bins.
The garden was created in spring 2007 by more than 600 volunteers from the neighborhood, local churches, PTA, student body, families of staff members, Home Depot employees, Northwest Natural employees, SMART readers and people involved with Hands On Portland.
The garden was expanded in 2009 to include a native garden on the east side of the school. That garden has a mature alder tree, evergreen huckleberries, bachelor buttons, mock orange, goldenrod and lupine, among various other plants. Both gardens provide the perfect opportunity for hands-on experiential student learning in an outdoor environment.
The Vernon garden vision states, “It is our hope that children will become more connected with the natural world, and find a lifelong source of enjoyment by experiencing the pleasure of working in the school garden.
“We find value in green areas, fresh food, and taking responsibility for other living things. We are delighted that so many members of the community support us in this vision.”
Zoe keeps the students engaged with half hour classes two days per week. The kids experience gardening, cooking, science experiments, biology, ecology and nutrition. Last year Whole Foods offered a grant so the kids could develop their own cookbook.
There is a robust garden program before and after school when the students can get friendly with the plants and the little red wiggler worms that keep the garden healthy.
The kids are invited to come on weekends, and families are welcome to harvest all year. The garden greens are often used for salads at various school events.
The garden is supported by the PTA, which has an annual auction in February and a fun run. The garden always needs volunteers to fill a variety of roles. Contact Zoe at ZDawson@PPS.net to learn more.
Monthly garden work parties occur generally the second Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to noon. Donations of supplies – like seeds, seed starter soil, containers, gardening gloves, small hand tools, hoses and more – are always appreciated.
After living east, south, north and west, Marsha Sandman is home at last. And she wants to hear your story. Contact her at MarshaJSandman@gmail.com.