The Multicultural Garden
Gardening and caring for vegetables brings out the stories of our lives. At Atkinson, with its rich linguistic and cultural diversity, gardening would be an invitation to explore our cultural roots.
The Multicultural Garden was developed by parents Jen Pultz and Janet Cowal. Cowal is also a linguist, who helped forge a relationship with the Applied Linguistics Department at Portland State University. Students from the department helped the school customize an ESL curriculum – and they helped dig out plant beds.
Here at Atkinson, we have these resources: people from all over the world with knowledge of place … grandmothers who are growing plants in their backyards and know how to do all sorts of things with plants. What fabulous resources! How do we value them and access their knowledge and bring that into the school?
Janet Cowal – project lead
The vegetable garden slowly grew out of a weedy courtyard at the center of the school. Before there were beds, there were pots for each class to grow seeds. Portland Nursery donated plants and seeds. Another parent, Chris Tinkham, designed the garden, which became thirty raised garden beds – one for each teacher. A lot has happened with the garden. Its founders hope to see the garden continue to be integrated into daily classroom activities like math, reading, social studies, writing, second language learning, and community service, while increasing students’ awareness of relationships between languages, cultures, and the environment.
I think having a garden is great because we will help the environment and we could eat the vegetables for snack.
David – Atkinson third grader
Signage and Mosaics in the MCG
The Atkinson community gathered when parent Diane Jacobs led teachers, parents and children in a weekend workshop to create mosaic plaques to identify each classroom bed. Mosaic art was mortared to ceramic plates, grouted, and hung on the edge of the garden beds with wire hanger.