On May 9, 2012, the Castlemont Community Garden recieved notification that it had earned Bay Friendly Registration status.
The Bay Friendly School Garden program recognizes schools that meet sustainability criteria for living landscapes on campus. Schools must demonstrate that they are meeting or exceeding eligibility criteria in the following categories:
- Building Healthy Soil
- Reducing Waste in the Garden
- Conserving Water
- Creating Wildlife Habitat
- Protecting Local Watersheds and the Bay
- Contributing to a Healthy Community
- Saving Energy
- Encourage Play, Learning and Teaching in the Garden
- Building and Sustaining a Network of Support
Castlemont's garden is supported by a wide range of teachers, volunteers, and most importantly students. The garden provides a space for educational after school internships serving students from both Castlemont High School and Leadership Public School in a program called Green Pioneers- which has a motto: "Green is Good for Every Neighborhood"
Green Pioneer Program Coordinator Grace Proctor submitted the Bay Friendly Registration application and praised the student leaders focused on urban sustainability and entrepreneurship. This year, four students were promoted to garden managers and have responsibility for managing larger projects such as the construction of a tool shed (managed by Bernardo, an 11th grade student), the development of a plant nursery that generated over $300 in sales (managed by 10th grader, Oranjel), and day to day tasks like caring for the brood of hens cooped comfortably at the garden as well as planting, watering and maintaining the planter beds (managed by Omar, a senior; and Margie, a sophomore).
Proctor is working with students to expand internship opportunities, adding a project to build a mobile cooking cart and learning healthy recipes as a foundation for a new enterprize focused on food preparation.
Teacher Tim Bremner uses the garden to help students understand broad systems like the production, distribution, preparation, consumption and disposal of food in America. Other teachers have used the garden to help recent immigrant students learn English and scientific vocabulary. Recently, students completed construction on a green house and storage shed. They plan to install rain barrel catchment systems to sequester rain water from nearby building roof tops.
One reviewer of Castlemont's Bay Friendly application noted, "I was very impressed with the skills and commitment of the students who participate in the Castlemont Green Pioneers garden program. The innovative design and diverse scope of the program and site have created a successful model for other urban school gardens to emulate."
After a waste audit revealed that 75% of material in the school cafeteria's garbage cans could be composted, students, teachers and staff from Castlemont High School began a campaign to reduce waste in Fran's Cafe- the school cafeteria named for the energetic and charismatic kitchen manager Fran Terrell.
Working as a team, Castlemont with support from the Oakland Unified School District, implemented many changes to start reducing waste. Recycling and composting bins were placed in the kitchen galley so that staff can easily recycle steel cans and compost food scraps.
Diversion stations with clearly marked signs are now set up in the cafeteria area for students to sort waste into recyclables, compostables, and trash.
Lead teacher Tim Bremner explains, "We didn't make a big deal out of it- we simply put in the new stations and found some students that can periodically monitor them to make sure people are sorting correctly. So far, it's making a big difference- but we are worried about the challenge of on-going bin monitoring."
Another important change at Castlemont aims to address the wasteful practice of providing a "spork packet" with every meal. The district installed fork, spoon, and napkin dispensers on the walls allowing students to take only what they need.
"In the past, students got a spork packet whether they needed it or not. Now if we have pizza- they only need to take a napkin," explains kitchen manager Fran Terrell.
The waste reduction campaign overlaps with broader changes in food service in Oakland Unified School District. Kitchens are once again cooking food (rather than just warming packaged items), salad bars offer fresh fruits and vegetables, and the district supports weekly community farmers markets at a number of schools.
The district has also followed the City of Oakland's lead and has eliminated the purchase of disposable foam trays in favor of compostable cardboard ones.
Fran Terrell is clearly proud of the healthy food she is serving and proud to be a leader in waste reduction as well. "My next goal is to get rid of the plastic water bottles. I hear that another school has a water dispenser and paper cups- I want to learn more about that and bring it here."
Students from Castlemont's Green Pioneers program hosted a booth at the Communities For a Better Environment Earth Day event in East Oakland. Students shared produce from their garden, sold plant starts generated in their greenhouse, and shared information about their worm composting system and bicycle repair class. The event also featured Aztec dancers, a scraper bike parade, and informative booths from many neighborhood organizations.
The event's theme, "Green is Good for Every Neighborhood," was developed in partnership between students and event organizers.