In Fall 2012 we put out a call for pen pals to the school garden community and since then we have exchanged letters each year with 3rd graders at Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 School (BVHM) located in San Francisco’s Mission District. This year we also piloted a garden pen pal and field trip project between 2nd graders at AFY and Jefferson Elementary School, both located in the Sunset District. In these hand-written letter exchanges, students introduce themselves to their pen pal match, describe their school gardens and favorite activities with each other, share garden words that they know in either Cantonese or Spanish, tell each other about what’s going on in the garden lately, and answer and pose questions back and forth. It has been a great way to use writing and drawing to explore beyond our garden fences, and to help our students hear what is happening in school gardens around San Francisco.
Our 2nd graders even had the chance to go on a walking field trip to visit the Jefferson School Garden last week. We started out by making flower bouquets in the morning from the AFY garden as a way to bring a little bit of our garden to share with each classroom at Jefferson. Each student hand-cut 1 flower to place in the vase. After lunch, students walked down to Jefferson Elementary on 18th and Irving to meet their pen pals. Throughout the afternoon Jefferson 2nd graders took their AFY pen pals on a tour of their school garden, participated in relay races, and drew chalk portraits of each other on the black top. It was an exciting and fun filled day!
A big thank you to the Education Outside Corps Members at BVHM (Ms. Polly) and Jefferson (Mr. Carson) for helping to coordinate pen pals and the field trip this year. Another big thank you as well for all the AFY, BVHM, and Jefferson teachers for participating, and to the Jefferson Elementary School Staff for hosting us in your classrooms and beautiful garden.