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By Dave Boyce
Almanac Staff Writer
The paths to the cultivation of a home vegetable garden have been many -- the hardships of the Great Depression, the backyard victory gardens during World War II, the back-to-the-land movement of the 1960s. Here is another one: the school classroom.
Hovey Clark, the science, visual arts and sustainability coordinator at the Woodside Priory School in Portola Valley, began the 50-foot-by-60-foot garden in the late 1990s with the help of several interested 12th-graders, he said in response to several e-mailed questions. Now it's expanding.
Growing at the moment are members of the broccoli and cabbage family and root vegetables, Mr. Clark said. Fruit comes with the summer. The expansion includes hopes for more leafy green plants, he said.
In 2010-11, for the first time, Mr. Clark offered a for-credit garden elective class for juniors and seniors in the grade 6-12 private Catholic school, located on 60 acres at 301 Portola Road.
For middle-schoolers, there are retreats that involve planting and harvesting, and a quarter-long elective is in the works, he said.
Other local schools that include gardening in the curriculum: Woodside and Menlo-Atherton high schools, Menlo School, La Entrada, Woodside and Corte Madera middle schools, and Sacred Heart Preparatory High School, which gained permission from San Mateo County in December 2009 to prepare and serve the food in the school cafeteria.
The Priory will cross that homegrown-student-meal bridge when it comes to it, Mr. Clark said. For now, the vegetables are eaten by the faculty and at fundraisers.
Academically, the gardening class at the Priory digs deep. Topics include large and small-scale agriculture, food distribution and its impacts on the planet, plant metabolism, seed collection and care, pollination and seed growth, and soil characteristics, Mr. Clark said.
There are no farm animals and none planned, he said.