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 JCCS Students Get Impromptu Lessons with a View

San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) horticulture instructor Leigh Adams didn’t let two days of rain dampen her lesson plans for Reflections Central students last month.

The adaptable Adams turned a planned gardening outing with 10 students to SDCOE’s main campus into a post-rainstorm study of watersheds, rainwater runoff, and pollution—and she was in an ideal location with the spectacular view of the bay and ocean from The Hill’s southwest corner.

“The point at the SDCOE main campus is the perfect spot to see a watershed in San Diego and talk about how everything we use in our gardens can wash into rivers and the ocean when it rains like it did,” Adams said.

Field trips are scheduled once a month for students at Reflections, a Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) campus in La Mesa that serves students in grades 7 through 12. The school is a partnership between SDCOE and the Probation Department.

Adams had planned to bring the students to The Hill to help with work on a collaborative garden outside the JCCS offices. Students from the Girls Rehabilitation Facility began work in October.

Because of the soggy ground, the group instead took advantage of the clear, crisp day and gathered at the point to discuss water, and to sketch what they saw.

Then Adams—who’s always on the lookout for ways to relate educational activities to the real world—led the Reflections students on a visit to the organic gardens at celebrity chef Brian Malarkey’s Green Acre restaurant in Sorrento Valley. The Green Acre gardens happened to be one of the inspirations for horticulture instructor Joni Gabriel when she established gardens at Reflections and the Girls Rehabilitation Facility, Adams said.

“I wanted the students to see that restaurants are beginning to do what we are doing—growing their own food to prepare,” she said.

The students were able to see what a fully operational edible garden looks like in a business model, she said. They spent time with a Green Acre gardener, asking questions about trough composting systems, the fruit trees on site, and what’s growing this time of year.

“Although the change in plans was last minute, I feel all of the students learned a lot from the trip,” Adams said, adding that the students were still talking about the outings in horticulture class the following day.