Locus Focus
program date: 
Mon, 08/30/2010

As students return to school this fall in Portland, many of them will also be returning to harvest vegetables from gardens they planted last spring. School gardens are becoming a feature of a growing number of schools in the Portland area. . . and around the country. In these gardens students learn the connections between the food they eat and the health of the world around them.

One of the first school gardens in Portland was the Garden of Wonders, started by chef and parent Linda Colwell at Edwards School in SE Portland in 1999. When Edwards School closed and its students moved to nearby Abernethy School, they took their garden with them. Today the Garden of Wonders is a model for teaching children how to appreciate real food by learning how to grow it themselves. And the veggies they grow are incorporated into the school lunch program.

On this episode we talk with Garden of Wonders founder Linda Colwell about how this program helps to educate students about the interconnected relationships of food, environment, ecology, communities, and cultural histories.

Linda Colwell, was trained at La Varenne in Paris, France and worked as a corporate chef for Merrill Lynch, Boston, MA. When she returned to Portland, Oregon, she worked as a butcher and sausage maker before opening a USDA school lunch program for Portland Public Schools. During her children’s early years, Linda volunteered for Front Line, supported the area developing farmers markets and as Co-Chair of the Portland Chapter of the Chefs Collaborative, became a leader in connecting farmers and chefs in the Willamette Valley. In 1999 and 2000, Linda managed the Chefs Collaborative “Adopt-a-School”  program, a Chefs Volunteer initiative in fourteen elementary schools in Portland, Oregon. In 2000, she created the Garden of Wonders, making her a leader in Farm to School and School Garden Education. The Garden of Wonders was the first school garden education program in Oregon that integrated edible gardening with core curriculum in elementary schools. Linda created a one week “Chefs in Residence” project that designed USDA school lunch menus with local chefs using local ingredients as part of a “know your farmer, know  your chef” experience for K-5 students.  “Chefs in Residence” became the foundation for her next initiative, the Abernethy Scratch Kitchen, the first on-site scratch kitchen to serve children in Portland Public Schools (PPS) in 28 years. The pilot program was the first K-5 Wellness site in Portland that integrated school garden, garden-based education, cooking from scratch, farm tours and physical activity. Since 2006, Linda has developed Eat Think Grow, a community of partnered organizations that support Portland Public Schools in meeting it’s Wellness Policy through Farm to School and School Garden Education.

The Garden of Wonders Food and Garden Education Program involves students in the stewardship of the school’s organic garden and landscape in a way that is wholly integrated with the school’s curriculum. It strives to encourage enthusiasm and wonder in learning by integrating classroom education with hands-on experience in the natural world. Students participate in food and garden-based activities that are interwoven with grade-appropriate math, science, social studies, and arts curricula.


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