The Impact of Gardening at Green Hill School (GHS)

April 22, 2024

Seeds are beginning to sprout in the Green Hill School (GHS) garden. This year, young people and staff are growing cabbage, artichokes, brussels sprouts,  tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, onions, bok choi, kale, watermelon, marigolds, and more.

The garden at GHS was initially a partnership between the recreation department and the ground crew, who worked together to maintain a circle garden with raised beds for each unit. In the circle garden, young people participated in 'chaos gardening,’ a term used when they planted seeds at random. However, this initial effort was just the beginning. The young people's interest in gardening grew, and they transitioned from ‘chaos gardening’ to creating a club and structured space for growing fruits and vegetables.

Working in the garden is a calming experience. Young people are expected to be in good standing to maintain this environment. Due to this, many young people have changed their behavior to be able to participate in this opportunity to leave their units and enter a space where they can be silent or listen to music and immerse themselves in the task.

The garden club provides therapeutic benefits and equips young people with practical skills. They learn about plants, growing food, and trying new foods. Some have expressed excitement about using these skills to help their families with gardens or start their gardens upon release. A few are so passionate about gardening that they grow plants in their units.

Young people can take the food from the garden to their unit or add extra vegetables to their meals. Staff also use the harvest during facilitated groups that teach how to make homemade pickles, coleslaw, salsa, and red sauce. In the future, the garden club will teach young people how to harvest so that they can use and store their food to help feed and care for their families and loved ones when released.

The club plans to expand the garden. Similar programs in other facilities, both adult and juvenile, have successfully supplied hundreds of pounds of produce to their cafeterias and even donated to food banks as a form of restorative justice. This garden has the power to support the participants and transform GHS and the community.

Green Hill School in Chehalis is a medium/maximum security fenced facility that provides older males sentenced to Juvenile Rehabilitation treatment with education and vocational training.