Richmond Street School Learning Garden Provides Educational Sanctuary

Education partner Matt Finkelstein and parent volunteer Karena Gurr are lending their talents to help the garden thrive as an educational experience for students at Richmond Street School. There is also a small and supportive group of parents and volunteers who are vital to sustaining the garden. However, more volunteers are needed and Richmond Street School encourages parents, older ESUSD students, and community members to get involved. Throughout the year, there are opportunities to volunteer on scheduled Saturdays in the Garden and Weeding Wednesday events. The next volunteer Saturday will be coming up in December.

Finkelstein conducts gardening lessons every Wednesday with students alternating the weeks they receive the curriculum by grade level. “Farmer Matt,” as he is known to the students” is a regenerative urban farmer with more than 10 years of experience who completed a certificated apprenticeship in ecological horticulture from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of California, San Diego. His lessons at Richmond Street School include an experiential journey from soil to seeds. Students study sprouts grown in a jar for an up-close look, they learn about composting, they look for garden “helpers and harmers” and journal about their discoveries, and they study different herbs and plants through use of the senses. The students help with planting everything from fruits and vegetables to flowers and herbs.

“As the garden develops more, we are looking to build and expand the curriculum,” says Finkelstein. “I have learned that the space we create is integral to the educational experience for the students. We are working hard to build out different components of the space to facilitate a variety of learning experiences. In addition to the interactive lessons I facilitate, we want the teachers to use the garden as an inspirational outdoor space for their lessons as well.”

Gurr is a liaison with the Richmond Street School PTA, which generously supported the Learning Garden by funding a shed for tools and equipment, installation of pea gravel paths, benches, signage, and a beautiful iron bench in the shape of a butterfly to use as a “mindfulness spot” during teachers’ outdoor lessons. “Our vision for this space is as a true outdoor classroom where teachers have all the tools they need to teach complete lessons here,” says Gurr. “We have movable benches, a white board, an outdoor sink, kneeling pads, and clipboards for students’ notes and assignments.”


A Garden Club for fifth-grade students was recently established with initial-year funding gifted by the RSS PTA and support from local El Segundo business – the International Garden Center. The club had their first meeting with about six students on Nov. 14. The students worked on turning over beds, learned about composting and planted a new crop of snap peas. The fifth-grade Garden Club meets every other Wednesday after school from 3-4 p.m. and provides an opportunity for students to have a deeper experience learning about plants, nature and garden maintenance. Parents are also welcome to participate in the RSS Garden Club with their children.


Gardening with children provides many development benefits, such as:

  • Engages all the senses
  • Encourages healthy eating
  • Enhances fine motor development
  • Introduces children to scientific concepts
  • Fosters family bonding
  • Teaches responsibility
  • Highlights the importance of taking care of the environment
  • Develops math skills
  • Teaches patience
  • Enhances the ability to plan and organize

“We believe the Learning Garden provides a unique and valuable opportunity for students to learn the science of planting, where food comes from, the importance of sustainable food sources, and the benefits of healthy eating habits, as well as gaining a greater appreciation for the environment,” said Alice Lee, principal of Richmond Street School.


To get involved with the Richmond Street School Learning Garden, please inquire at the main office. Follow on Instagram @RSSlearninggarden.


About the El Segundo Unified School District

The El Segundo Unified School District (ESUSD) was established in 1912 to serve all of the residents living in the City of El Segundo and covers the western part of the city. ESUSD consists of six schools including the Eagle’s Nest Preschool, Richmond Street and Center Street Elementary Schools, El Segundo Middle School, El Segundo High School and the Arena/Virtual High School, as well as partnerships with the South Bay Adult School and California Regional Occupational Center (SoCal ROC).


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Photo Caption:

Richmond Street School education partner Matt Finkelstein works with students of all grade levels every Wednesday in the school’s Learning Garden. Here he is pictured with members of the 5th Grade Garden Club.