A 4th/5th grade class from Hapgood Elementary had the opportunity to explore the sustainable vegetable garden at the Santa Barbara Mission this past month. Led by garden docents, they visited 4 stations: gardening/composting, Chumash/SB Mission history, mission-era introduced plants/tasting tour and seeds/seed saving. At the gardening station the students weeded, planted, sifted compost and collected seeds. They observed some of the organisms that live in the compost. When one of the docents rang the bell, it was time to move to the next station.
The students followed the docent up the stone path, through succulent plants, to a lookout over the garden. The docent talked about how the Chumash used to get up high on the hills to see their surroundings. While looking at a mortar and pestle, they talked about what the Chumash people ate. The students looked up and saw an oak tree and said, “acorns!” They were shown sage that the hunters used on their skin before going out hunting for deer and bears. A highlight was the abalone shell necklace they were each given, after discussing the ocean as another food source of the Chumash people.
The next friendly docent led our group through the garden, as she discussed introduced plants during the mission-era, and the uses of some of the plants found there. We learned that the white stuff on the cactus is an insect that turns into a dye that the Native Americans used. The students had the chance to use the dye to color a piece of paper!
The docent talked about how the Chumash people were a peaceful tribe and used all of what they harvested, using the abalone as an example. The students then got to see this zero waste method in action when they sampled cactus, sugarcane, pomegranate and popcorn, all on a banana leaf, that eventually would end up in the compost pile!
Seed saving happened at the last station where each student got a small envelope and used a glue stick to put a label on it with what contents would be put inside. Then the docent went through various seeds and each student got to put some in his/her envelope…wheat, Christmas lima beans and cotton!
This really was an amazing experience for the students, teachers, and parents that volunteered their time! Thank you La Huerta docents and staff, and the Sisters of Magdelene for this opportunity. On the bus ride home I observed a student drawing a picture of her experience at the garden. When I asked her to tell me about it, she told me she wished she could make the whole world as beautiful as the Mission garden.