By Kayti Proctor, St. Luke's News
BOISE, Idaho - Nearly 15 years after Dr. Trudy Comba donated 3.5 acres of land on the corner of Five Mile and Ustick Road in 1999, Boise Urban Garden School (BUGS) has finally moved in to bring the property back to life.
This spring, the partnership between the City of Boise, the Comba family and BUGS will begin reconstructing the property creating a new 1,500 square foot indoor learning facility complete with commercial kitchen and a ¾ acre garden that will be landscaped for both a community garden as well as a learning garden for the students of BUGS.
BUGS is a unique program which utilizes an organic garden as an opportunity to teach children about healthy and sustainable living through the science of gardening and valuable culinary skills. This educational organization gives students a hands-on opportunity to learn the relationship between these skills and the benefits of organic living.
Students from Sage International school learn about pollinators from BUGS volunteers.
Currently located behind the Wright Congressional United Church of Christ on Franklin and Orchard in Boise, BUGS was originally founded by Amy Hutchinson and Wendy Young in 2003. The land for the garden was donated by the church who leases their basement to the group for learning activities for students on rainy days. The students who access BUGS range in ages from 6-15-years-0ld and come to the facility on field trips with their schools.
On one of those field trips, students spent time learning about the process and contributors of pollination by building flowers out of paper cups and construction paper and coming up with new imaginary pollinators and drawing them with markers. Teachers say that the BUGS provides an opportunity to extend what they are learning in the classroom by providing hands-on projects and crafts.
Being a privately funded organization, BUGS receives 30 percent of its support through grants, 15-20 percent from registration fees for summer learning programs and the rest from private donors.
BUGS recently received a grant from St. Luke’s Health System for $3,000 to support and help expand its health based youth education in the community.
“Boise Urban Garden School’s mission is to grow healthy communities and inquiring minds. We cannot do this without the continued support from sponsors like St. Luke’s.” said Executive Director, Erin Guerricabeitia who has been with BUGS since 2011.
Over the summer, BUGS offers a five week program for kids during which they have an extended chance for learning about everything from gardening science and the importance of environmental sustainability to having three days in the kitchen learning how to cook meals with the produce grown in the garden. Children also learn about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), carbon foot prints, and the difference between conventional and organic growing.
While close to 80 percent of the meals cooked are vegetarian, the educators at BUGS do not push the students to stop eating meat or shopping at conventional grocery stores.
“We like to give them the information and let them make their own choices” Guerricabeitia said. New knowledge and new skills are the goals of the program.
Volunteers for the BUGS program come from two service learning programs at Boise State University, the Idaho Master Gardeners, and 50-60 community members.
Because seven schools with high populations of low-income students are near the new BUGS facility, it will create accessibility for many children when after school activities are unavailable. This also allows more opportunity for community involvement through the garden and the commercial kitchen.
In 2013, BUGS helped 3,500 kids discover the benefits of growing and preparing healthy food. With the opening of the new facility, they are expecting to reach more than 4,500 kids in their first year. The new facility will allow additional summer programs, and more than double the amount of field trips and workshops available to the students of the program.
To find out more about the BUGS program, visit www.boiseurbangardenschool.org, or watch the video below.