Ecocity Partners Education Program

The Ecocity Partners Education Program engages citizens in semi-formal, informal, and youth education opportunities that promote sustainable living and gardening including sensible and efficient municipal water use. The Program serves communities within the Fountain Creek Watershed. This education program has three components to engage a multi-generational cross-section of our citizenry. By engaging the community in sustainable gardening education, we teach people how to promote environmental stewardship from one’s personal landscape. Gardening in the city reduces run-off, makes efficient use of our water resources, and promotes a food production culture within city limits. Horticultural education from a watershed perspective employs ecology, hydrology, and horticulture to promote critical thinking about sensible water use.

on-going: Adult Education- Online Sustainable High-Altitude Gardening Education Series

Season – Spring – Summer

Six classes compose the core curriculum for the Sustainable High-Altitude Gardening Education Series: The ecology of your home landscape; Wise water planning and use in the garden; Selecting and starting seeds; Tending, training, and propagating young plants; Planting and maintaining your garden; Harvesting flowers, plants, and seeds. Add-on classes include Indoor gardening; Chicken ecology; Starting bees; Designing aquaponic growing structures; Baby food production and storage. The courses are appropriate for gardeners of landscapes of all sizes including patio gardens, backyards, and larger land parcels.

The Sustainable High-Altitude Gardening Education Series is hybrid course with online instructional components to foster an on-going community of students. The practical demonstrations occur at the Ecocity garden.

2018: Youth Education- Garden Camp

Season – Summer – weekly camps and drop-in childcare provided

Garden Camp provides an outdoor educational experience for children preK-12 to engage in garden science, food production, and community engagement. The curriculum meets Colorado State Education Standards for science, math, art, and social studies. Campers will participate in vegetable and flower gardening, composting, and chicken and rabbit care. Campers will learn elementary carpentry skills and associated math applications. Campers will learn to cook with their garden harvest. Campers will visit neighbor gardens and perform volunteer work for elder neighbors. Campers will play games and have fun.

Garden Camp is located at the Ecocity garden in the Old North End in Colorado Springs.

2018: Community Education- Ecocity Partners Education Booth at Local Farmers Markets

Season – Summer – Fall

Ecocity gardeners, farmers, and campers will host an education booth at local farmer’s markets. Each week features an education topic about wise water use, sustainable gardening, and local food cooking. Community gardeners will showcase their locally-produced food items. Garden/farm space will be recruited from private landowners for the Ecocity Partners Backyard Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program (2019 launch).

Proof of Concept

The Sustainable High-Altitude Gardening Education Series was originally taught at the Colorado Mountain College (CMC) in Leadville, Salida, and Buena Vista, CO. At the time of the non-credit course offering, it was the most highly attended non-credit course in CMC history. The series was highlighted in a Colorado Public Radio piece entitled High Altitude Backyard Farmers (http://www.cpr.org/news/story/high-altitude-backyard-farmers).

The last education program developed by M. Gaddis was administered through the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association. This program contributed to GARNA’s achievement of the National Partner in Excellence award from the US Forest Service in 2013. M. Gaddis was awarded GARNA Volunteer of the Year in 2013. This program has flourished and is currently self-sustaining with a dedicated staff person and three school districts engaged in the GARNA service area (http://garna.org/programssummary/yelp/).

Ecocity Partners, formerly called Platt Park Gardeners hosted an education booth at the Old South Pearl Farmer’s Market in Denver, CO. Each week, a gardening topic was presented with hands on demonstrations. This brought a sense of community to the Platt Park neighborhood and afforded an opportunity for gardening advice, and plant and seed sharing among booth visitors. This education booth was supported by the Old South Pearl Farmer’s Market Association.

Community Need

With adequate land resources, and favorable weather and water laws, Colorado Springs urban residents have the opportunity to use their landscapes for wildlife improvement and for edible food production. Currently, there is no organization that directly supports horticultural and sustainable living education for homeowners and children in our community. Furthermore, the departure of Venetucci Farms as a local food producer creates a void in our urban foodshed. The circumstances by which Venetucci Farm retired its operations also makes very evident our need for community water education, especially as it pertains to our food environment and connected watershed. The Ecocity Partners Education Program provides both physical and educational means for supporting this community need.

Success Measurement

Success will be measured by number of students engaged. The adult course series target is 12 participants for the entire series per location offered. Number of locations offered depends on funding procured. To be successful, Garden Camp needs to have at least eight paying attendees and at least 12 students total per week. Scholarships will be offered to Ecocity Partners employees’ children and those in financial need. Farmer’s market success will be measured by the number of markets attended, with a target of at least one per week (https://www.visitcos.com/things-to-do/arts/farmers-markets-in-colorado-springs/). Farmers market success will also be measured by the number of contacts made at the tent; this will be measured by newsletter sign-ups gained per week.

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