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“We had a school garden before school gardens were cool,” said Laura McCavit, president of Stonewall Gardens.

Stonewall Jackson Elementary School was an innovator in outdoor classrooms in the Dallas Independent School District with the cultivation of an outdoor garden where students could grow and tend plants. 

Stonewall Gardens is a 501(c)(3) volunteer-led non-profit organization that supports the school’s garden. This charitable status was put into place in 2008 to help sustain the garden’s assets by making fundraising tax-deductible to donors.

How exactly did this garden grow? About 20 years ago, a group of teachers and parents planted some beans in an unused corner of the school grounds so students could tend them and watch them grow, giving “city kids” an opportunity to experience firsthand the life cycle of plants. 

In 1995 Mark Painter joined the Stonewall staff. Painter said he always had an interest in agriculture, and he began holding classes in the garden, integrating the school’s science curriculum into the gardening program. 

Today the garden is a 20,000 square foot outdoor laboratory where students tend crops, observe the workings of an ecosystem, and conduct scientific experiments. The hands-on, multi-sensory curriculum allows children from kindergarten through fifth grade to increase their understanding of science and the connection to nature.

Rows of organic produce garnish the southwest corner of the school grounds -- an eye-catching view for passersby traveling north on Matilda Street.  Students are currently growing potatoes and onions, but the garden also has asparagus, chard, carrots and herbs.  

The student marks his or her plant with their name, and they are responsible for tending, collecting and recording data, fertilizing and finally, harvesting their crop. 

Harvest time is a fun time at Stonewall. On “Foodie Friday,” a local chef visits the school and prepares dishes featuring the harvested produce. Students have the opportunity to become connoisseurs, sampling the dishes and collecting recipes of those they enjoyed, like the "Stonewall Slaw" prepared by George Catering Company. 

Participation in today’s after-school gardening program at Stonewall is proof that those original teachers and parents knew their beans. A group of students that just can’t get enough of the garden gather on Thursday afternoons with Painter for some extra instruction. Nature has always held an appeal for young people in East Dallas, and Stonewall Gardens is using natural resources to encourage learning.

 

Recipe for Green Apple Cabbage Tortilla Slaw, aka Stonewall Slaw

Foodie Friday recipe provided by George and Katie Brown of George Catering Company

  • Vinaigrette
  • 3 roasted, peeled, seeded and diced jalapenos
  • 2 peeled and minced garlic cloves 
  • 1 peeled and minced shallot 
  • 1 bunch chopped cilantro
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 6 juiced limes
  • Salt to taste
  • Slaw
  • 2 julienned Green Apples
  • 3 julienned Jalapeno, stem, seeds and membrane removed
  • 1 red bell pepper, stem, seeds and membrane removed
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, stem, seeds and membrane removed 
  • 1 green cabbage, ribs removed and chopped
  • 1 red cabbage, ribs removed and chopped
  • 10 tri-colored corn tortillas, thin julienned, seasoned and deep fried
  • 4 oz grated Queso Cotija

Method 

  1. In a large bowl, mix jalapenos, garlic, shallots, cilantro, oil, lime juice and salt to taste. Make dressing at least 12 hours in advance.
  2. Thin julienne and mix in a large bowl: green apples, jalapenos, red and yellow bell peppers, green and red cabbages and the fried tortilla strips.
  3. Right before serving, toss in jalapeno vinaigrette. Sprinkle on queso cotija.