New Life Growing at Meadows Elementary Garden Thanks to Parents

Meadows students plant broccoli. Photo by Lilian Dunker Cruz

A growing banana tree and sprouting garlic are a few of the exciting milestones students at Meadows Elementary have been able to experience in the community garden nestled next to the school playground.

The thriving space is all thanks to the dedication and enthusiasm of first-grade parent, Lilian Dunker Cruz. Broccoli, cauliflower, beets, kale, potatoes, and sugarcane are some of the delectable items growing across the twelve plant beds. But just a few months ago, the garden looked very different. “I always wanted to have a place for the kids to come to experience the garden I wanted them to come and plant, to have something they planted,” Lilian Dunker Cruz said.

Inspired by her childhood living in south Brazil where she harvested her food with family, gardening has always been a passion for her.  Lilian embarked on her commitment to bringing her vision of what the garden could be by creating and growing the lush environment into a space for students to work and learn about where their food comes from. She volunteers several hours a day to collaborate with school staff to offer a range of learning opportunities at the garden. Students have been thrilled to be part of the change. Meadows Principal Michelle Krzmarzick said it’s been a great sight to see.

“Lilian has generated students’ interest in the garden, which sparks their curiosity about how food grows. This will lead to students wanting to eat the foods that we grow, which will lead to healthier eating.” And that’s the goal, the hope is that once the vegetables are ready to pick, students will be able to enjoy them.

“Seeing the students’ reaction when they learn about a new vegetable or fruit is what makes it worth it. If they are learning this now, I hope one day they will do it with their kids and it will impact their lives,” Cruz said. Transitional Kindergarten through first graders stop by the garden during class time to help maintain and grow the plants. They are also taught how various fruits and vegetables are grown. Grades second through fifth can join the Garden Club and all students can visit the garden during recess time. Most recently, students were able to see firsthand the crop popcorn originates from.

Lilian showed and educated first graders about popcorn cobb. Photo by Lilian Dunker Cruz.

Meadows Principal Michelle Krzmarzick said, “When you have volunteers who have a passion as Lilian does, you can just set their imaginations free and support their visions, which aligns with school goals. It all starts with a person who has the time and energy to share their passion with others.”

Lilian has created a makeshift greenhouse in the space and worms are housed on campus for their castings to help naturally fertilize the soil. Local community partners have also supported the initiative. Deep Roots Garden Center and Florist in Manhattan Beach donated bags of soil and the Manhattan Beach Unified School District’s community partner Beach Cities Health District provided seeds. And if this wasn’t impressive enough, Lilian hopes to keep expanding the garden across campus. “If you don’t put your time or love into it, the garden won’t grow,” Lilian said.

MBUSD has always prided itself on a Green District. Our Green Committee is made up of parents from each school site. We can’t wait to share with you the work being done at our other campuses!



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