Monday, October 20, 2014 • 11:06
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Earth Day celebrated at High Sierra Academy



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GIVING LIFE TO PLANTS: Students, teachers, and parents at High Sierra Academy created a garden from the ground up to celebrate Earth Day.
April 30, 2014
Earth Day was celebrated on April 22 at High Sierra Academy with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the academy's first garden.

In attendance were parents and local businesses that helped make the garden possible. Ryan and Jennifer Armstrong provided materials and enlisted the assistance of local businesses. Stuart Holthaus of A-1 Irrigation, along with Pat Morgan and Craig Miller of Quikrete, were honored at the ceremony for their contribution of masonry blocks that were used to create the garden beds. Cal Cernansky was also recognized for his hard work in creating the garden beds. Darren and Michelle Janata were thanked for supplying soil for the garden.

The ceremony began with Emily Stewart, President of High Sierra Academy, addressing those in attendance.

"We love doing community projects. It's a big deal for us to get involved in Earth Day," Stewart said. "We have lived in Valley Center for 20 years and have never had a garden, although we live in an agricultural community. After we thought of having a garden, we got the message out that we needed help. The community came forward. As you can see, the results are beautiful. It could not be a prettier garden."

Stewart continued to explain the reason for planting the garden. "If you ask kids where they get food, kids say food comes from a supermarket. By having a garden, kids can see where food is made from start to finish," she said.

The garden was originally envisioned by teachers Kathleen Helms and Heather Mason, with Jessica Zichichi offering her garden expertise and providing a sign-up sheet for parents.

"I know one mom is a big gardener and the kids like it too. Kids like to dig in the dirt," Helms said. "We talked to a parent who made a poster of what to do for a garden and it just took off. The kids are thrilled."

The parents are also credited for making the garden possible by generously donating soil, seeds, garden stakes, garden instruments, and starter containers.

"Things just started coming in," said Stewart. "Then it became a community garden."

"The kids are all excited. We planted carrots yesterday," said Helms. "I think it's so important to learn about the garden and nature and how things grow. They're at the age that they understand."

A classroom project taught the kids about the actual growth processes of plants. Bean seeds were put on wet paper towels then placed in plastic bags and attached to windows. This allowed the kids to watch day-to-day growth patterns.

"Some seeds are bursting out of the bags, others are doing nothing," Helms said. Helms noted that starting bean plants on windows reinforces the structure of plants. After the bean plants grow, the kids decide if they want to donate the plant to the garden or take it home.

"The kids learned a lot watching the seeds grow into plants," Helms said. "I think today's world is disposable and we need to teach children the value of things. Plants are living things. You just don't pull leaves and flowers indiscriminately."

After the ribbon cutting ceremony, Stewart made a closing comment.

"The preschool was overwhelmed by the generous response of the community. The garden will provide a wonderful education for Valley Center's children for years to come."

High Sierra Academy is located at 29235 Valley Center Road in Valley Center. Approximately 50 children who attend the academy are divided into categories for classes. It is a preschool comprised of two to five-year-olds.

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