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Emmaus School’s new Community Garden and Environmental Center is in full bloom. From left are Ryan Viengkhou; Susan Westcott, teacher's aide; Cooper Sprague; Isla Maples; and Erin Harney.
Three years ago when former Emmaus Lutheran School student Matthew Diep, who graduated in 2010 and is now a student at UCLA, returned from a semester at Oxford University in England he was inspired to develop a sustainable urban garden project. He approached Emmaus Lutheran School about conducting this project to involve the students in connecting with nature. His plan was approved. After extensive research and some creative sourcing for materials, his garden was laid out, built, and planted. Between Matthew and Susan Westcott, a teacher’s aide, and with help from students, the Emmaus Community Garden and Environmental Center is maintained and is in full bloom.
“The garden gives students a first-hand opportunity to see how God uses spring to bring new life and renewal to our planet,” said Principal Kit Hittinger.
On March 14, the Killdeer birds who nested here last year returned and the mother laid four eggs, once again in the middle of the playground with her male counterpart closely guarding her nearby. There is a small perimeter fence around the area to assure security for the nesting parents. It takes 22-28 days for the babies to hatch, so students watched as three of the four eggs hatched, learned to fly, and flew away. The bird parents had no problem with the children playing nearby, but if an adult came around they immediately started squawking. It seems that this bird family has made Emmaus their permanent home.
During March, Amy Chan, the cafeteria director, used some of the five different types of lettuce from the garden to spruce up the salads for lunches, and some of it was also used to provide salads at the Lenten suppers. Teacher’s aide Kathy Negvesky has taken some of the lettuce home to her tortoise, who will turn 60 years old in July.
There are milkweed plants growing, and during recess, students watch the Monarch butterflies and search for caterpillars. The fourth-graders are counting the California Poppies (the California state flower) to see how many are growing. Being next door to Almansor Park brings lots of insects and animals onto the campus. There are lizards, geese, squirrels, ladybugs, and butterflies to watch, giving students another recess activity while interacting in the garden.
Another Emmaus alumni, Ryan Kwok (class of 2015), hopes to do a garden-related project as his Eagle Scout project for his Boy Scout troop.
“The school is blessed to have such an environment on the 6.2 acre campus to be able to share nature up close with the students,” said Ms. Hittinger. “It is another way that Emmaus Lutheran School stands out from other schools that are frequently asphalt jungles.
To enroll a child for either summer camp or for fall, pre three through grade eight, contact Ms. Hittinger at 626-289-3664 for a campus tour. The school is I-20 certified. The school’s website address is www.EmmausAlhambra.org.