Written by Milena Castillo-Grynberg, Food Systems Educator

This month, the Portola community has made great strides in growing the garden space. At the most recent workday on Saturday, February 17th, an impressive group assembled to dig trenches, lay bender board, and stake the day away under late winter showers! Portola teachers, parents, and students worked diligently alongside NCL volunteers to carve out pathways and outdoor learning spaces like a formal classroom and composting station. A representative from the San Bruno Community Foundation also joined the workday to formally award Each Green Corner with a check to continue developing this project at Portola. The representative commended the community’s dedication and expressed their sincere admiration for the work being done at Portola. It is true; Thanks to tremendous volunteer efforts, a vision that has existed exclusively in people’s minds and a little booklet is finally becoming a concrete reality. 

Volunteers laying bender board at Portola Elementary. (February 17th, 2024. Photo taken by EGC Food Systems Educator, Milena Castillo-Grynberg)

Volunteers also planted new plum, pluot, and apricot saplings to extend the fruit forest walkway that will border the back of the learning garden. Most of the previously planted saplings have settled well into their new home and extend their small roots a little deeper into the soil each day, safe from gophers in their wire baskets. Additionally, the raised beds full of greens continue to flourish, consistently producing new rings of shiny, nutritious leaves for harvest. All of the produce grown in Portola’s garden is donated to Samaritan House, a local food bank.

Appropriately, Food Explorers are learning about Food Security and Insecurity this month. Through art projects, relay races, and stories like Maddie’s Fridge and the Lunch Thief, they are reflecting on the circumstances that may cause hunger, and what hunger feels like in your body and mind. Younger students had the opportunity to draw their “Hungry Feelings,” filling in the faces for both a “Hungry” and a “Full” figure to express the emotions they associate with those sensations. Teachers were a little confused as to why some of the “Hungry” figures were smiling gleefully, until one student explained: “He’s happy because the other one is going to give him some of their food to eat. They don’t need it anymore because they are full.” It is fantastic to see students express such a strong instinct towards sharing; In their minds, it seems obvious that someone with more than enough to eat would share with someone who does not have enough and is hungry.

Portola Elementary students drawing their “Hungry Feelings” (February 17th, 2024. Photo taken by EGC Food Systems Educator, Milena Castillo-Grynberg)

In other news, Portola’s Environmental Engineers are full-steam ahead in developing their original Earth Day Play and Art Gallery. The play will be set on a divided planet, with one side living in lush, green harmony and the other living a reality full of pollution and conflict, that is until they learn some important lessons about environmental stewardship. The art gallery will illustrate similar concepts, encouraging viewers to adopt certain Earth-positive behaviors through bright colors and textures. Students seem very excited to share their projects with the larger community, and it will be fantastic to see it all come together in April!

If you are interested in supporting this project and contributing to the development of Portola’s garden and outdoor learning spaces, please join us at the next monthly workday on March 16th! Portola workdays fall on the third Saturday of every month and you can sign-up here.

Volunteers helping develop the Portola garden (February 17th, 2024. Photo taken by EGC Food Systems Educator, Milena Castillo-Grynberg)


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