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Organic Gardening at WBAIS Israel

By Roz Ezra
Organic Gardening at WBAIS Israel

The spoils: a crop of beautiful, organic winter vegetables (photo: WBAIS).
The Walworth Barbour American International School’s (WBAIS Israel) Elementary School Gardening Club began in February 2012, with the goal of establishing an organic garden at our school. The club has been open to students in Grades 4 and 5 who are willing to make a commitment and become active and literate stewards of sustainability and environmental awareness.
What is organic gardening, and why is it important to have an organic garden on campus? An organic garden does not allow for synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. It is not just about growing plants, but also about allowing our students to learn holistically about the plant as a part of a larger system.
Students learn about soil, water supply, insects, composting, and biological pest control. They learn the purpose of using raised beds, how to prepare soil for planting, how to plant seedlings without disturbing the plants’ roots, and how to plant seeds that are properly spaced and at their required depth. And they learn about companion planting, to repel unwanted pests and attract desirable insects like bees and ladybugs that are beneficial for pollination (biological pest control).
Students also encourage birds to come and live on campus, such as chickadees, kestrels, owls (and insectivore bats) to prey on the rodents and pests that can affect the garden’s success.
Last Earth Day we hosted our pre-school and kindergarten students. Club members served as guides leading groups of students through the garden, explaining about the watering system, raised planters, composting, and the various types of plants that are growing in the garden at present. Grade 2 planted flower seeds, and is recording their germination and growth rate for graphing during mathematics class. The Elementary School is now involved in composting lunch and snack leftovers, to provide compost for the garden.
In addition to our organic garden, we now have an organic greenhouse! This 15- by four-meter structure not only has space to raise thousands of seedlings, but has an organic bed made completely of coconut coir (a natural fiber extracted from the husk of a coconut).
The greenhouse also contains an aquaponic system to grow over 1,000 plants! This system combines aquaculture with hydroponics. There is also an 800-liter tank at the end with fish growing, so we can raise and harvest both fish and plants for future harvest sales.
Students are learning to be in harmony with nature by raising organic food without the use of any poisons. Members learn the value of teamwork; and best of all, they are outside enjoying fresh air and exercise.
As Cicero once wrote, “He who has a garden and a library wants for nothing.” At WBAIS Israel we have an amazing library and very green garden!
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