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La Cumbre Junior High unveils new outdoor classroom and edible garden

La Cumbre Junior High School in Santa Barbara introduced a new outdoor classroom and edible garden for students Thursday afternoon.

The classroom is wheelchair-accessible and will have seating in the shade for more than 40 students. It features herb and native plant gardens and will eventually have a multi-layered food forest.

The Audacious Foundation funded the garden, which was inspired by the late Jo Ann Caines, former principal at La Cumbre Junior High.

The first seeds were planted more than a year ago. Today, students used fruits and vegetables from the garden to make salad and sauerkraut. The school will use food from the garden in the cafeteria. Meanwhile, food scraps from the cafeteria will be composted to feed the garden’s plants.

Students also planted trees and painted signs for new plant beds. Once the garden grows, it will feature shaded seating for more than 40 students as well as a multi-layered food forest.

Ramsey Cronk helped organize the landscaping. He’s been building outdoor classrooms at Santa Barbara schools for more than a decade, something he says is especially important now.

“It’s a big need today,” Cronk said. “We’re in a situation where everybody’s disconnected. And this is a way to re-ground [the students] and bring them back to something that’s real.”

Both Ramsey and District Superintendent Cary Matsuoka agree that every school in the area should have an outdoor classroom.

“Outdoor classrooms are just such a joy to watch because I think kids are more at home, honestly, outdoors,” Matsuoka said. “We have land, and so to take advantage of this, this isn’t a lot of square footage. But it turns it into a beautiful space and a productive space. So I wish that every campus in our district had an edible garden.”

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