Melissa Gilbert teaches at Encompass Academy, a charter school in the Washoe County School District. In 2018, she decided to integrate gardening into her class Home Arts, where she also teaches sewing and cooking. She took over a garden project started by the school’s history teacher Edna Meza who started it in the fall of 2017. In a school where 83 percent of the students are considered at-risk, Melissa is not simply offering a fun elective — she’s providing students with relevant life skills they can use today and take with them as they develop into adults.
The school is located on Foster Drive, just down the road from the Bridge Church — which graciously offered the school some of their land to use for the garden. The church also allows the class to use their water supply to irrigate the plants. “We are so grateful to the church,” says Gilbert, “their generosity makes this project possible.”
Gilbert is an avid home gardener but has had to adjust her expectations for the school garden. “Last year we had success with potatoes, tomatoes, garlic and onions and quite a few failures,” she explains. “We were able to cook a few dishes with what we grew, but we are looking to improve our yield. This year we’re working with Down to Earth Compost to make sure we have really good soil.”
Melissa’s class will also have compost bins this year, made with help from Down to Earth Compost, and an irrigation system (it’s in progress). They’re also working on a hoop house after a friend gifted her class some hoop row covers. “We are definitely learning what works as we go,” says Gilbert. “And the kids have a say. They love flowers, so we are planting flowers in addition to vegetables.”
Right now, while snow continues to fall outside, her class has started some indoor seedlings. By April they hope to plant some hardy crops outside. The program is small and humble in its goals, but still requires money and resources. So far, Gilbert has relied on generous donations from friends and groups like The Bridge Church and Down to Earth Compost.
How can you help?
If you want to help support the Home Arts garden project at Encompass Academy, contact Melissa Gilbert directly at 775-843-9543 or via email.
Flower Plants for our Pollinator Garden
Seeds (all kinds)
Gardening Gloves (S-XL)
Rubber Boots (all sizes)
Rain Gear (all sizes)