The Living Classroom Program

Posted on March 25, 2011 by  
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The school districts in Los Altos have always been open to piloting new and innovative ways to teach their students.  Essentially, the districts have established a multi-directional education experience for the students, their parents, and the broader community.  As we’ve mentioned previously, the local schools are consistently mentioned as one of the primary reasons families want to live in Los Altos.

It’s interesting to note that the districts approach to instilling academic success is a reflection of the high standards and educational expectations of the community.  The schools consistently invite, and actively engage, the community in successful educational partnerships .  The Living Classroom Program is one such collaboration between the schools and the Los Altos community.

Recently, the Town Crier wrote about this program.  Below you will find an edited version of the Crier’s story.  Enjoy …

The Living Classroom Program, which provides garden-based science lessons in the Los Altos School District, is thriving.

The program has sustained growth rates of 50 percent per year over the past two years, providing more than 400 lessons to students in grades K-7 this school year alone.

“The teacher and student feedback from the lessons have been extremely positive, and we are thrilled that more and more students are getting this important exposure to the natural world,” said Nadia Jankovic, Living Classroom docent. “The lessons are science based and tie very well to the children’s school curriculum, helping reinforce what is being taught in the classroom with a hands-on, nature-based focus that the kids really enjoy.”

Founded in 2008, the Living Classroom operates in all seven district elementary schools and is piloting seventh-grade science lessons at Blach Junior High School this spring.

Trained volunteers conduct the lessons primarily outdoors. Specially designed school gardens featuring California native plants and raised planter boxes for edibles are the backdrop for most of the lessons, which also cross into math and social studies.

Mike Sanderson, program director, said “one of the most satisfying experiences you can have as a volunteer docent is to see the genuine excitement on children’s faces when they are really engaged, with all their senses, in learning. Seeing that sense of wonder and connection that children make, sometimes for the first time, with something living in the garden, is truly magical.”

Since its inception, private donations have funded the Living Classroom. Local foundations such as the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Los Altos Educational Foundation, the Morgan Family Foundation and the Los Altos Community Foundation Youth Philanthropy Program and other businesses and individuals have kept the program afloat for the past three years.

For more information, e-mail Mike Sanderson at, call 947-1103 or simply click here.



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