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S.E. Learning Garden celebrates season of growth

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - The Learning Garden Lab meadow in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood is the site of the annual Harvest Festival.It was mostly play, with very little farming work, occurring at about Hallowe’en – when staff, volunteers, and neighbors celebrated a Harvest Festival at the “Learning Garden Laboratory” in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood.

“This afternoon, we are ‘celebrating community’ here at the Learning Garden Lab,” smiled Portland State University (PSU) Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Heather Burns, who coordinates the school’s Leadership for Sustainability Education Graduate Program.

“In this part of PSU’s graduate studies program, we’re trying to cultivate a sustainable future through garden-based education. So, we focus on lots of education around sustainable food systems, and the garden. We also give attention to how we can learn to work together to create sustainable communities in general, and specifically to bring communities together, here at the Garden.”

Burns pointed to the tables set up in the field offering pumpkin painting, face painting, a corn-hole toss game, and other activities.

“We’re also holding a raffle – and serving up freshly-pressed-on-the-spot apple cider. We also have OSU programs, including the ‘Beginning Farming Apprenticeship Program’, represented here, as well as their Master Gardeners program – as well as folks from the Portland Fruit Tree Project. They’re all partners on our site.”

Hosting the annual Harvest Festival helps meet the program’s mission, Burns said, “Because it brings people together. It also introduces people to the opportunities that exist here.

“Many of these programs here are open to kids in the community, as well as to adults and university students,” Burns continued. “Some of the programs are open to neighbors at large. They can come here, they can get connected, and they can learn what’s going on. And, they can meet other people who are interested in similar things.”

The Brentwood Darlington Neighborhood Association’s President Jacob Sherman joined the conversation. “I think the Learning Garden Lab is a fantastic asset to our community, and I’m so glad they are located right here in our neighborhood! Many of our residents have large lots, and they can learn a lot about gardening at the Lab.”

Sherman pointed to the school across the street, and added, “It’s great that they have a connection with Lane Middle School, offering their ‘Science in the Garden’ program to students two or three times a week. This makes it another incredibly good asset to our community.”

The event was organized and put on by the Learning Garden Lab staff, who are PSU graduate students in their “Leadership for Sustainable Education” program, Burns said, as well as PSU ‘capstone students’ who are doing classes on-site.

After the harvest, the Learning Garden Lab isn’t simply “put to bed for the winter,” Burns explained. “We’re here all year around, holding classes for Lane Middle School sixth-graders, all through the school year.”

To learn more about the program, go online: www.pdx.edu/elp/learning-gardens-laboratory