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Local elementary school takes learning outside the classroom

Posted at 11:27 AM, Mar 16, 2020

Students at Harloe Elementary School are getting a taste for what it's like to take learning outside the classroom.

Layla Saheb is a fifth-grade teacher at Harloe Elementary School in Arroyo Grande. In 2019, Saheb was awarded a $50,000 grant through the Lucia Mar Foundation for Innovation.

"I decided that a school garden could be something powerful and I decided to go for that," Saheb said.

Once she received the money, Saheb hit the ground running. While the garden is not finished, students are already getting their hands dirty. Abbey Whighton, a student at Harloe, is part of the Botany Club, which is the club responsible for taking care of the garden.

"I like that you can spend time with friends and that you can also do it while helping the earth," Whighton said. ''It's a good way for people to know how to grow a garden or take care of a simple plant."

Aside from the job of tending to the garden, students like Rilynne Moses-Cook and Charlie Phelan are busy advertising plants and vegetables that can be sold from the garden through the Entrepreneur's Club.

"We've learned how to make a profit and be good with customers," Moses-Cook said.

Phelan says beyond that, the club is also teaching him how to make posters and create logos and slogans to help attract customers.

"I just like seeing the smiles on the customers' faces," Phelan said.

There wouldn't be a garden without planter boxes, and that's where the Builders Club comes into play.

"It's a fun experience to learn how different structures work with each other," said Ronnie Brown, a member of the Builders Club.

Learning how to build the planter box was just one take away for Brown.

"Let's say you can build something really, really well but if you don't know how to work with the people around you then is it really that good?" Brown said. "It's one of the greatest skills you can earn, working with others."

Saheb says students can also put their reporter caps on by joining the Journalism Club to write articles about the garden that can be posted to the school's website. Eventually, ceramic-tiled cinder blocks and birdhouses will line the perimeter, and while the garden is in the beginning stages, each class will have their own garden to tend.

"They'll come out, check on their crop, pull any weeds and do some hand watering and if they're ready to harvest, they'll start doing their own harvest," Saheb said.

Saheb has worked closely with the nonprofit One Cool Work for guidance on this school-wide endeavor, but she also credits community members, parents, and staff who have also stepped up to help.

The learning happening outside the classroom and in the garden is enriching the students' education.

"They're learning how to use tools, they're learning how to communicate, they're learning how to stay organized," Saheb said. "Education goes outside of what's just in books and this is really a life skill experience."