"I love gardening," said Holly Liu, a fifth-grader, as she planted spring flowers. "It reminds me of my grandpa. He's not here anymore, but I feel like he is, when I'm gardening."
The garden was designed as a place for children to commune with nature, and learn first-hand that all things are connected. Here students can take concepts from the classroom and apply them, plus it's a place where students can wander and explore at any time throughout the year.
Every week, parent volunteer Melissa Dantzig brings her chickens to the garden to share with the students. The students love when "the girls" visit, and the chickens love getting hand-delivered meals of earthworms, crickets and grains.
"If I were to chose one word that best describes my experience in the garden with the students, it would have to be 'serendipity,'" parent volunteer Pam LaCourse said. "I can't tell you how many times I come in with a plan that evolves into something else -- something amazing.
"Then there are those days when a killdeer (bird) makes her nest in the middle of a main path, or a sharp-tailed snake is discovered -- you have to be ready to roll with it," she continued.
"Volunteering in the garden has taught be me the joy of being flexible and the wonder of our kids' incredibly intuitive observations."
Parent volunteer Farrah White agreed.
"What I love about working with the kids in the garden is that even when it's a simple fun activity, their minds and imaginations are working," White said.
"One of the girls observed while we were planting a flat of flowers, 'The roots are so long and tangled, is that because they have to reach out and grab vitamins in the soil?' It's amazing to see how they much they understand and grow through hands-on learning."
The Hearst Monarch Garden and Outdoor Classroom was started in 2006 as a place to compost food waste, after the PTA Environmental Awareness Committee adopted the Go Green initiative. It was grown to include six community garden beds, three native beds and two art centers, and it has been awarded a Distinguished Native Garden by the California Native Garden Foundation.