Inglewood finds green in middle school’s Harvest Festival

Caption: Part of the Environmental Charter Middle School-Inglewood second annual Harvest Festival beautification projects included harvesting produce and planting a native garden. (Photo by Dennis J. Freeman)

Originally posted on LA Waves

By Dennis J. Freeman

INGLEWOOD — When you first come upon Environmental Charter Middle School-Inglewood while walking or driving, from the outside the campus sort of blends in with the neighborhood with its less-than-spectacular appearance.

But it is a much different story once you turn the corner and drive into the parking lot.

Their visitors then get to see the real face of what Environmental Charter Middle School-Inglewood is all about. The school is like an oasis of greenery in the middle of a neighborhood dominated by residential homes, liquor stores and rundown motels. Sitting right off the ruggedness of Imperial Highway, Environmental Charter Middle School-Inglewood has become the unknown green machine.

“This is an environmental school with a big environmental theme,” said school principal Beth Bernstein Yamashiro. “All of our students take a class called Green Ambassadors. The idea is that [students] are learning tools when they go out in the world, number one, be conservation voters; number two: teach other people in the community what they know about the environment, and number three, lead the charge to solve environmental challenges.”

There is a lot of green on the school grounds. Gardening projects abound everywhere.

Organic waste is turned into rich compost to grow eatable vegetables like kale. Part of the campus has been revived into a beautification project of environmental proportions, with renovations being done to 35,000 square feet of lot. The environmental-friendly educational facility also includes 10 new classroom spaces and four growth point structures.

All of this was unveiled to the public Nov. 5 during the Environmental Charter Middle School’s second annual Harvest Festival. Families of students, residents, as well as dignitaries like Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Inglewood City Councilman Ralph Franklin joined in the festivities.

“This is our second year that we’ve have had students, parents, teachers, community partners, friends, supporters and donors, come and help us celebrate our community, our harvest and what we do,” Bernstein Yamashiro said. “The idea was that we showed the public what our school is about. We harvest vegetables. We have various community partners who have set up booths that are doing education around various environmental issues.

“There are so many environmental issues that are represented here. And we have our students who have created projects that are aimed to teach people about plastic or about the water cycle. We have a compost station. We’re trying to help parents learn how to compost at home. So, it’s just sort of like a full-scale community harvest, education and a thank you celebration.”

Tashanda Giles-Jones, the Green Ambassadors teacher at Environmental Charter Middle School-Inglewood, could not hide her enthusiasm for what the day meant for her and her students at the school.

“This is our big fall event,” she said. “Our students get an opportunity to showcase to their families and their community the work we’ve done since August,” Giles Jones said. “For our eighth graders, it’s big because their fall event is a cumulation of what they’ve learned in the sixth and seventh grade. So, the projects that are out there are ones that are talking about the environmental names we’ve been going over in the Green Ambassadors class.

“Even larger than that, we are growing as a school. As we grow, we are adding new families, and we are trying to create a family culture here that not just encompasses our students, but their parents, their families and our community, and all of our partners.”

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