Castro Valley High School
The Castro Valley High School garden was recently recognized as a Bay Friendly garden. The garden area on campus is used by Science, English and Special Education students to combine environmental learning with classroom lessons.
Over the past few years, teacher Michelle Trueblood has organized students and other volunteers to establish a garden area on campus that works well with the Bay Area climate, minimizes water use, provides learning opportunities, adds habitat for local critters, and provides garden-fresh vegetables to school gardening students.
CVHS noted the following best practices for Bay Friendly gardening present in their work:
Building Healthy Soil
- Garden beds are prepared by hand rather than with a tiller.
- After initial preparation, beds are maintained with little or no tilling.
- Sheet mulching is used to establish planting areas or pathways, and as a way to control weeds while improving soil.
- Soil is protected from compaction with clearly defined paths and or raised beds.
- Soil is amended with compost.
- Cover crops are grown to enrich the soil.
Reducing Waste in the Garden
- Active compost bin or worm bin
- Food scraps from garden, cafeteria or cooking classes are composted.
- Garden trimmings are used on site for composting or mulching and/or recycled in green waste cart if available.
- Plant waste is minimized by not overplanting, overwatering, or overfertilizing.
- Pruning is minimized by choosing plants that are appropriate for the space.
- Recycled, salvaged or renewable products are used for artistic or functional purposes.
- Mediterranean climate or native plants are featured (more than 50% of the garden area is occupied by plants adapted to summer dry climate).
- Plants are grouped by water needs.
- Native grasses and other lawn alternatives are planted to reduce water consumption.
- Watering occurs according to need, not a pre-determined schedule.
- Mulch is used on bare soil in the garden and on top of garden beds.
Creating Wildlife Habitat
- Food for wildlife is available through plant selection.
- Water is provided with a small pond, bird bath, or water dish.
- Year-round protective cover is provided with a planting of evergreen trees/shrubs, logs, rocks, or brush pile.
- Wildlife is encouraged with a variety of plants that flower and set fruit at different times of year.
- Areas of the garden are left somewhat untidy – let flowers go to seed to provide food for birds, and leave dead leaves and stalks to shelter over-wintering insects.
Protecting Local Watersheds and the Bay
- Non-permeable surfaces such as asphalt and concrete are removed and replaced by permeable surfaces, allowing water to soak in rather than run off.
- Nearly all soil is covered by mulch or plants.
- Synthetic fertilizers are not used in the garden.
- Synthetic pesticides and insecticides are not used in the garden.
- No invasive species have been planted, and any invasive weeds on the property are being managed to prevent their spread.
Contributing to a Healthy Community
- An integrated approach is used for controlling weeds, insect pests and diseases with least toxic controls used first for safety of children, pets and wildlife.
- Pests and their damage are tolerated to the degree possible. Perfection is not the goal.
- Beneficial insects are encouraged through plant choice.
- Organic vegetable garden provides food.
- Hand or electric tools are used instead of gas-powered tools.
- Potential neighborhood hazards are considered and controlled in the garden -- including fire awareness, weed seed disbursement and rodent habitat.
- The garden is accessible to the community, through work days, events and open garden hours.
- Local garden products and suppliers are utilized.
Encourage Play, Learning and Teaching in the Garden
- Students are engaged in garden design, installation and participate in ongoing maintenance of the school garden.
- Garden design and materials encourage informal interaction with garden features.
- Students participate in garden activities that provide time for unstructured exploration and guided inquiry.
- Plants and garden features are selected to provide connections to state content standards and classroom curriculum.
- Interpretive signage, graphics and murals convey information and provide teaching moments.
Building and Sustaining a Network of Support
- Community work days and events engage parents, neighbors and other community members in projects that sustain the school garden.
- Successes and benefits of the school garden program are measured and promoted within the school and surrounding community.
- Support is sought from the school district for funding, maintenance or supplies when possible.
Motivated by findings from a comprehensive waste audit that revealed that 80% of the items in the trash at Castro Valley High School could be composted or recycled, students in Nick Whitaker's Leadership class took immediate action.
Students created a video to promote recycling on campus and raise awareness about a planned food scrap diversion program slated to launch at the start of the next school year.
The high quality public service announcement video uses small doses of humor, smooth animation, and narration based on the findings from the waste audit to encourage students to take advantage of the existing recycling system on campus.
On Saturday, March 17, 2012, students from Castro Valley High worked with the Castro Valley Sanitary District to analyze two days worth of waste generated on campus by 3000 students.
37 students dug through 256 bags of mixed garbage collected from the schools trash cans and sorted the materials into three categories: mixed recyclables (paper, plastic & metal containers, cardboard, etc); mixed organic material (food scraps, food soiled paper, lunch trays, etc); and trash – items destined for the landfill.
After five hours of work in the school gym, students found that over 80% of the waste in the trash cans on campus could be diverted from the landfill. 46% of the material could be composted and 34% could be recycled. Only 20% of the material in the trash actually needed to go to the landfill.
According to the Castro Valley Sanitary District, if the school were to aggressively compost and recycle, they could reduce the number of trash dumpster pickups at the school and save $40,000 per year.
Castro Valley Sanitary District made the following recommendations to help the school reduce the amount of waste it produces and sends to landfill:
- Castro Valley High School could enhance waste reduction efforts by introducing food scrap recycling in the Cafeteria and Annex. 46% of the school's garbage is organics material. CVSan has successfully implemented food scrap recycling with the great continued work of staff, students and parents at all 9 elementary schools and both middle schools in CVUSD! CVSan staff will provide technical assistance and conduct trainings to start any form of food scrap recycling program at CVHS. Contact CVSan at 510-537-0757.
- CVSan observed that gray garbage containers outnumbered the blue recycle carts in the outdoor areas of campus. We recommend reducing the number of garbage containers on campus to encourage students to recycle. 34% of the school's garbage was recyclable material. Once excess garbage containers are removed around campus, all garbage containers should be paired with a recycling cart. Improved stations around campus would make recycling much easier for students.
- There was a significant number of easily recyclable plastic and glass bottles as well as metal cans in the garbage sorted. Many campuses find it fun and a great way to raise money for activities by placing bottle and can only recycling containers around school grounds. Students and/or school staff can take these recyclables to a local deposit center for redemption value (hundreds of dollars a year at much smaller schools). CVSan could donate containers specifically for this purpose.