Garden dedication connects Casti with the community
Posted 11/17/2010 09:00AM

Yesterday Castilleja dedicated the campus garden to Jhumki Basu '94, an alumna and past faculty member who died at age 31 of breast cancer. Through her professional work at NYU and at Castilleja's Discovery Summer Program (the precursor of the Peninsula Bridge Summer Program), Jhumki sought to make science education exciting and accessible to students in underserved communities. A personal passion for gardening also animated her work. As a tool for science and non-science educational projects, the garden honors Jhumki's personal mission and memory.

In April 2010, the Jhumki Basu Memorial Garden was initiated by students, faculty, staff, and community members at the Earth Week seed planting event. In June, rising fifth-grade girls in the Peninsula Bridge Summer Program planted and tended the seedlings in the temporary garden location on the dean's patio. This fall, the garden moved to its permanent location adjacent to the Circle.

To celebrate the garden’s new home on campus and to kick off this year’s Global Week theme of food, an all-school assembly was held to explore the topics of local, sustainable, and organic food, and environmental and social sustainability in the context of the garden program. Jesse Cool, a chef, restaurateur, and pioneer in the Bay Area's local, organic, and sustainable movement, was interviewed on stage by garden club leaders Paulina Choh ’12 and Kendall Levison ’13. For more photos from today's event, click here.

Nat Turner, founder of Our School at Blair Grocery, and Eron Sandler from East Palo Alto Charter School/Collective Roots also came to tell the stories of their programs and to explain how the extended community can become involved in promoting environmental and social sustainability.    

Our School at Blair Grocery (OSBG) in New Orleans' Ninth Ward promotes environmental and social sustainability through an organic, student-managed garden and produce supply program. The garden-turned-school was started in the wake of Katrina and provides the only fresh produce available in this impoverished area of New Orleans.

East Palo Alto Charter School/Collective Roots (EPACS) has a beautifully developed 1/2 acre garden. Castilleja’s 7th grade recently spent an afternoon learning about organic gardening at this extensive garden site. Next semester the girls will work with EPACS middle school students to learn about gardening, and both communities will use technology to share information about their gardens.

Any garden inherently offers a wonderful means for students to enjoy healthful outdoor activities and to learn about their environment. It is Castilleja’s hope, however, that beyond mere enjoyment, the campus garden and Castilleja’s partnership with OSBG and EPACS/Collective Roots will open avenues to exciting curricular possibilities for teachers and deeply enriching educational opportunities for students.

The new garden and exciting partnership with OSBG and EPACS bring together many facets of Castilleja's program for educating girls for the 21st century by providing opportunities for youth leadership around topics including environmental and social sustainability. From hardware supplies to support with website development and long-term revenue projection, both schools have needs that could provide leadership opportunities for and engage the academic skills of Casti students. Similarly, OSBG's and EPACS' students have skills in gardening and social engagement (through maintaining the garden, managing farmer's market sales, and interacting with community) that could benefit Castilleja and bring the local and national communities together.