The Learning Gardens Lab turns 10

The Learning Gardens Lab, a four-acre educational garden in southeast Portland operated through a partnership between Portland State, Portland Public Schools, the city of Portland, and Oregon State University’s Extension Service is celebrating its 10th birthday this year. That’s a decade of supporting academic achievement, leadership development, and local sustainable food systems by providing multicultural, interdisciplinary, intergenerational, and experiential garden-based education for public school students and their families, university students, and community members. 

Since its founding in 2005, nearly 2,000 students from Lane Middle School—many whom are culturally diverse and from low-income families—have participated in educational garden activities led by Portland State University graduate students. These activities help the middle schoolers flourish inside and outside the classroom. 

And the Learning Gardens Lab also provides opportunities for PSU students to serve the community through applied coursework. To date, about 1,500 PSU students have worked on projects at Learning Gardens Lab.

The garden is maintained by PSU students through the support of dedicated faculty and volunteers. LGL provides garden-based education for Lane, workshops for PK-12 educators, service learning capstone courses, community events, a farmstand for fresh produce, and hands on gardening experience for the community. 

At PSU, we’re looking forward to the next decade of educational gardening and community building at the LGL, and we’re excited about the fall-term classes happening now.  

Fall Classes:

Creating Community through Family Gardens

Students in Sybil Kelley’s Advanced Leadership for Sustainability class are working to re-envision the Lane Family Garden Program at LGL. This program supports 10 families who are learning to grow their own food by providing garden coordinators and educators that assist families in preparing the land, planting seed starts, garden planning as well as harvesting and maintenance. To increase impact of the program, students will consider how to regenerate the program so that it mimics natural systems in ways that are vibrant, diverse, collaborative and flexible. Students will observe, research, and develop a recommendation for the Lane Family Garden Program for the next season.

Learning Gardens and Food Security

In the Capstone course Learning Gardens: Community Engagement & Sustainability taught by Denissia Withers, students explore the concept of community food security through placed-based learning at LGL. By participating in service learning students will understand issues around food justice through community engagement and learning gardens. Students will develop skills in sustainability leadership and outreach as they collaborate with the LGL Farm Stand, ROSE Community Development and the Wild Lilac Child Development Center. Students will learn to become community advocates around food justice issues and get hands-on experience working with LGL. 

Envisioning Through Permaculture Principals

In Heather Burns’ Permaculture and Whole Systems Design: Principles and Practices for Sustainable Systems class students are observing and practicing permaculture principles at LGL. Students will design a permaculture project around educational design, a social design project or a land based garden project. Working with LGL allows students to experience a community organization firsthand, gain an understanding of community needs and how to incorporate permaculture practices into their work at the learning gardens.

Fostering Sense of Place

Students in Dilafruz Williams’ Sense of Place class are learning about place through a hands-on experience at LGL. Students participated in a work party to connect with the soil, shared in an event around mindfulness and developed sensibilities through a guided tour and sit spot. Through a day centered on LGL, students gain an understanding of what sense of place means to them and what placemaking aims to incorporate into their lives. In developing relationship to place through LGL, students will deepen their sense of place for the Portland region.