Archer’s garden isn’t going anywhere: Students design new green space


Photo credit: Kamryn Bellamy

Jael Ellman ’18 relaxes on the bench in the courtyard’s garden before heading to class. Students often eat lunch or spend time in this community space.

With the next phase of Archer Forward construction commencing this month, the back field and garden area will soon become a construction site. Rather than illuminate this green space, the garden has been relocated to the courtyard.

Science teacher and Sustainable Living Coordinator Cushman Gillen is working alongside two sophomores, Misha Mehta and Chloe Powers, to create a new edible garden.

Gillen has been dedicated to Archer’s garden since 2015, when it was located in the back of the school near the parking lot. When preparation for reconstruction began in the summer, that garden was torn down. But Gillen received permission from Director of Operations Janet Lyons to create a new garden in the courtyard.

As involved as Gillen is with this project, the students that are leading it. 

“I’m essentially just following the [on] heels of the students’ motivation and interests,” Gillen said.  

Mehta and Powers took the lead on designing the garden’s layout in the courtyard. They both began working in the garden as eighth grade students and enjoyed the “fun” and “liberty” it gave them.

“We both noticed that there weren’t a lot of people involved in the Archer garden, and we both thought it was a really cool thing to do because we’re growing food and plants,” Powers said. “It’s great.”

Some of their goals include making Archer a more sustainable campus, giving students a hands-on science experience and producing food to give back to the community.

Gillen has arranged to donate produce grown to the Daybreak Women’s Shelter in Los Angeles. Students will be growing lettuce, kale, collards, herbs, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and squash.

“That food can go somewhere outside of our community and campus and benefit the greater community too,” Gillen said.

Gillen, Mehta and Powers want more student involvement in the garden. They said that the garden is a student-driven project; the more passionate students are about it, the better it will be. Students will soon be able to help Tuesdays and Thursdays after school.

“We hope to collaborate with art classes,” Mehta said. “Maybe ceramics can create pots or sculptures to put in the garden, or studio art students can paint something that we can put up. It can really be a community garden.”

Gillen is especially looking forward to witnessing what this garden will do for the students’ outlook on the outdoors, growing their own food and being able to not only help themselves but others too.

“I’ve learned along with [Mehta and Powers],” Gillen said. “[We learned] the best practices…and the benefits of gardening — not just for us as students [but regarding] combating climate change,…know[ing] where our food comes from [and] giving back to the community. There’s so many different things we can get out of just a small garden space.”