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2014 Challenge Runner-Up

La Center High School

La Center, WA

 The Environmental Studies Class Garden was started in 2009, with the edible garden-2009, ornamental garden 2011, native garden 2012, the rain garden (very much still in progress) 2012 and the garden shed demonstration area (in the planning stage) in 2014.

The Environmental Studies Class at La Center High School works to learn about low- impact and no impact land and water use, incorporate sustainable practices into our class projects, educate others within our school district and beyond about sustainability and encourage each other to live with more intentionality toward preserving and improving our environment. Our 3-hour class has four primary strands.


The guiding strand of our class is our work toward certification for our high school to progress through Washington Association of Green Schools program. Certification has been achieved through: Level 1-Waste reduction (implementing the SOS Cafeteria Composting Program), Level 2-Water conservation (installing a drip irrigation system in the ESC Garden), Level 3-alternative energy (our school has solar energy). We are currently working on Level 4 certification in the category of School Grounds. Our demonstration garden shed and rain garden learning stations will be our projects to complete this level of Green School certification.


Waste reduction on our campus and beyond is an overarching goal of ESC. We conduct weekly recycling rounds on our campus, monitor and assist with the cafeteria composting program, implemented the Save Organic Scraps program on the K-8 Campus, promote recycling and composting on our HS campus, maintain four worm boxes in our classroom and a compost bin in our garden. The nutrient-rich compost and vermicompost is used to amend the soil in our class’s garden, saving us money, reducing the need to transport soil amendments from other locations and further working to walk our class’s talk of sustainability.

Watershed education includes: monthly water quality testing at five locations along our local creek, mentoring 5th graders to monitor the water quality at their site and better understand the concepts behind understanding watersheds and water quality, rearing Coho salmon in our classroom through the Salmon in the Classroom program, working streamside with the WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and local salmon restoration organization, Fish First, to maintain our Chum salmon remote site incubator and 340’ pipeline that brings water to the RSI. Also, part of our watershed education strand is water conservation within our Environmental Studies Class Garden and reducing toxin flow into the stormwater system through our in-progress rain garden.

Land use and Gardening is the strand that brings all of the others together. We practice organic gardening, use drip irrigation, cultivate our own compost, have constructed an edible garden using both raised beds and mounded beds, planted a native garden, an ornamental garden and are in the process of constructing a rain garden and garden shed learning station. The latter is the reason for our applying for the Green Thumb Challenge Grant.

Our Environmental Studies Class shed is currently used as many garden sheds are used; it’s purpose is to store tools for our work in the garden and with our salmon restoration program. Our goal is to transform this shed from an ordinary storage shed into the ESC Garden Shed Sustainability Learning Station. The goal of our class is to learn to be more sustainable and to educate and encourage others to be more environmentally conscientious as well. The Environmental Studies Class Garden is comprised of a number of smaller garden spaces: an edible garden (with raised and mounded beds filled with vegetables, annual and perennial herbs, edible flowers, strawberries and blueberries), an ornamental garden (with flower boxes and plants propagated through cuttings and seeds harvested from gardens of members of our teaching staff), a native garden (with plants native to our region within the Pacific Northwest) and an in-progress rain garden (which includes a four-barrel rain water collection and diversion station and native plants).

The inclusion of our garden shed as a learning station within our ESC Garden will serve as an introductory station on our garden tour. The ESC Garden Shed Learning Station, will serve to be a representation of all of the aspects of our garden. Once visitors are introduced to sustainable practices, they will be guided to the stations within our garden to further learn how they can be implemented.


The Environmental Studies Class Garden was started as a class project in the fall of 2009. Students in the ESC researched a variety of garden plans, toured various local gardens and designed a 1,100 sq. ft. garden. The plans were presented to administration and maintenance for approval to proceed. Next, we researched, sought after and obtained funding to construct the raised and mounded bed portion of the garden. Construction of this first phase of the garden began during the spring of 2009. The ornamental, native and arbor/flower box portions of the Environmental Studies Class Garden came to life the same way. Environmental Studies and Summer Environmental Projects Classes have maintained the garden to this day.

Currently under construction are our rain garden and garden shed learning stations. Each of the garden spaces within the ESC Garden serve as learning stations for a number of classes in our high school. The Construction (vocational) Tech Class designed and built our shed as their first major project. The sciences classes often work with plant identification and students choose to focus upon aspects of the garden as independent research and scientific method projects. Art classes use it for sketching and reclaimed-materials art projects. Health classes use produce from the edible garden in their studies about nutrition and the human body. The Environmental Studies Class designs, maintains and improves the ESC Garden every year and uses it at an experiential learning base. Additionally, we use the garden to further work with our 5th grade partner class to better understand watersheds, water conservation, the need for organic gardening and its impact upon our watershed and environment as a whole. This year our class will begin working with more students from the elementary school to expand their understanding regarding the concept of sustainability and commence the process for their school to become a Washington State Green School.

The Environmental Studies Class is motivated to be a catalyst for change within our community and our school district. Formalizing the learning stations within our garden helps us to make a greater impact upon our environment and within our community.