Organic gardening is an important focus for Dunwoody High School’s student-led organization called Grow Dunwoody. The plan is to bring the science of gardening into the classroom to give students an opportunity for hands on instruction in addition to traditional learning methods.
Student volunteers have gathered at DHS to begin the organic gardening effort in one of two courtyards at the school. Using mulch donated by a local tree company, students prepped the garden for native Georgia plants. The plan for the second garden is produce, starting with fall plants.
Danny Kanso, DHS senior and director of Grow Dunwoody, said the group is going to follow the Georgia organics planting calendar and plant vegetables like kale, arugula and collards.
“We want to have everything up and growing in a month,” said Kanso.
The point of organic gardening, said Kanso, is to show students the real process from the ground up.
“We start everything from seed and it’s all natural,” said Kanso. “We make all of our own soil, and all of our own compost.”
Grow Dunwoody has partnered with community and city organizations like the Dunwoody Nature Center and the community garden at Brook Run Park, along with Georgia Perimeter College, said Kanso.
“We partnered with all of the GPC science classes from biology to chemistry to environmental science and they are going to be the ones who are directly involved in mentoring all of the students in the Dunwoody cluster,” said Kanso.
Each GPC class will be assigned to a DHS class and the GPC students will come in on a daily basis to participate in classroom instruction and in the organic gardening program, said Kanso.
Kanso describes himself as a problem solver who saw many resources in Dunwoody and wanted to bring those resources and the schools together for increased learning opportunities and more community involvement.
“Dunwoody has so much potential and so many organizations and it’s incredible what you can do if you can harness their full potential,” said Kanso. “So that’s what I’ve really tried to do.”
Ellen Augustine, DHS teacher and faculty sponsor of the program, said that another benefit of the program is providing GPC students interested in education an opportunity for classroom involvement.
“A lot of the GPC students have an interest in education and they don’t have an education department, so this gives them an opportunity to see what it’s like to be in the classroom with students who have an interest in biology, chemistry and environmental science,” said Augustine.
In addition to science classes, Kanso and Augustine said that home economic classes will also be involved as vegetables come to harvest.
“These classes will cook with the vegetables grown in the garden,” said Augustine. If we have leftover vegetables, we’ll donate them to local food pantries.”
Vanderlyn Elementary School was the first school in Dunwoody to have an organic garden, said Kanso.
“We’ve been working with them to adopt our program and merge the two efforts,” said Kanso. “The point of our program is to build an equal installation in all of the elementary schools, make a successful progression to middle school and then to the high school.”
Robert Galerstein, assistant manager of Grow Dunwoody and a DHS senior, said that Dunwoody and Vanderlyn Elementary schools are also starting to establish gardens.
“There’s an increasing popularity for school gardening and we wanted to be part of that effort,” said Galerstein. “It’s a long process, but we knew that if we put our minds to it, got funding and got interested people involved, we could accomplish this, and now we’re starting to get it accomplished.”
Kathleen Allen, DHS senior and Manager of Operations for the group said that she got involved by joining the Dunwoody Environmental Coalition, another student led organization which was founded by Kanso and Galerstein and now has 60 members, 30 each from DHS and GPC.
“I like what we’re trying to do by making the community more green and have better sustainability,” said Allen.
One thing that Allen wishes for is more volunteers.
There are a lot of volunteer groups, said Allen, and students have many other commitments which makes it hard to get more volunteers to help with the effort.
While the current focus in on organic gardening, said Kanso, he is also focused on the big picture which is education.
“It’s really about education, putting parents, and the community back into the education system,” said Kanso.