New ‘Learning Garden’ at Taft High School set to serve as outdoor lab

The newly installed “Taft Learning Garden” at the main entrance to the school, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., will be used an outdoor laboratory in which students will learn how to grow organic vegetables.


“We want this to become our outdoor classroom, and we want everyone to use it,” Taft Garden Club advisor Marianne Villasenor said. Villasenor said that in addition to being used for science and nutrition classes, the garden also can be used to inspire poetry and other types of writing.

The 750-square-foot garden features raised oval garden beds that have an irrigation system, two decorative art poles, a bench, rocks and native plantings. Plans for the garden called for a shade structure, but because of the proximity of a tree, the funds which were going to used for the shade structure went for installing of decorative pavers.

Volunteers from the Norwood Park Satellite Senior Center, 5801 N. Natoma Ave., will help maintain the garden during the summer. Villasenor said that some center users plan to talk to the garden club about the  “victory gardens” which their families grew during World War II in response to a food shortage.

Seasonal plantings such as radishes, brussels sprouts and herbs are planned for the garden, volunteer Isaac Sporrong said. The school is investigating having items from the garden sold at a local farmers’ market or donated to a charitable group, he said.

The garden is being funded through a grant from Kitchen Community, a nonprofit agency that helps schools install gardens which in some instances are used as an extension of their playgrounds. The City of Chicago has given the agency about $1 million of unspent funds from last year’s NATO summit to help install some 60 gardens.

Taft’s garden was installed on June 21. Kitchen Community is planning to install about 180 gardens, which typically cost about $12,000, throughout the country in 2013.


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