At Borah High School in Boise, Idaho, what started as an outdoor space for science lessons has transformed into a thriving school garden, orchard, and gathering space, all sustained by a dedicated club of students and their advisors known as the Borah Green Team.
“The garden started developing years ago into what it is today when science teachers created ‘lab’ spaces outside their classrooms,” says Jennifer Boyd, Borah High Librarian and Green Team advisor. “Folks began adding something new to the space every few years: a variety of native trees were planted in the shape of the state of Idaho, the first planter boxes were built, apple, peach, and plum trees and raspberries were added, and bird feeders were placed around to attract wildlife.” The garden grew into a large shared space with picnic tables for gathering and more than a dozen large raised beds used by the science department and horticulture program.
,Borah’s Green Team was formed in 2019 by a group of students dedicated to promoting sustainable practices and protecting the environment. They began by creating educational materials about sustainable living for the staff and student body and ramping up Borah’s recycling program. Following school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Green Team returned to campus in 2021 with a renewed appreciation for the garden space and some big ideas to bring the garden back from disuse over the hiatus and make it more sustainable. “When our student Green Team came back from Covid, they embraced the space and applied for a district grant for funds to rehabilitate and further develop areas of the garden,” says Boyd. “They were awarded the funds and decided to use them to build a sustainable garden bed for carbon sequestration plants, turn a length of fence into a green wall, and add vinyl covers to existing picnic tables for club, class, and party use,” says Boyd. The club chose climate-resilient perennials for their carbon sequestration bed, including yarrow, soapwort, ratibida flowers, prince’s plume, and gooseberry-leaf globemallow. The green wall was planted with trumpet vine, honeysuckle, and hops to support native pollinators.
Today, Boyd partners with Borah High Environmental Science Teacher John Schisel to advise the Green Team, who meet every Wednesday at lunch. “There are currently twenty or so students on our Green Team. Borah students who need community service hours (NHS and Key Club) will often work in the garden with us, as do the environmental science, horticulture, and biology classes led by their teachers,” Boyd says. “In good weather, we have Saturday work parties to clean up the garden with weeding, pruning, and maintenance. In warmer weather we hold lunch meetings outside. Right now we tend a raspberry bramble, three pollinator beds, and each year our horticulture classes give unsold annuals to us to grow over the summer like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. This fall our students were also very excited to plant pumpkins to share with the school. We harvest when school starts at the end of the summer and share it with our culinary program, staff, students.”
While Borah’s Green Team has shifted to include sustainable gardening as part of their mission, they still focus on sustainability education. “We plan activities for each school day of Earth Week and use this time to educate everyone,” says Boyd. For Earth Week 2023, the Green Team offered crafts stations to make your own denim patch from upcycled jeans and paint flower pots to take home, as well as theme days aimed at raising awareness about carbon footprint like Transportation Tuesday and Thrift-It Thursday. Students who donned their favorite thrifted outfit or came with proof of carpooling, walking, or biking to school were entered into a raffle for concert tickets. Throughout the year the Green Team works together to create infographics on sustainability to place around the school and in bathroom stalls and informational videos for Borah’s weekly video announcements. They also created a booth for Borah’s Homecoming Carnival with environmental trivia, sustainable prizes, and information aimed at growing the club’s membership.
The team is full of ideas for expanding their efforts in the coming years. “We’d like to have a more permanent compost plan in the future,” says Boyd. “We’re also hoping to further reduce our water use through the addition of drip lines, and starting a tea garden full of herbs. We are always looking for ways to get more students outside!”