Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library
Posted: Thursday, September 1st, 2011
by Eric Lewis
An interview with Rebecca Newburn, teacher of sixth graders at Hall Middle School in Larkspur, CA, and creator of the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library.
Lewis: What gave you the idea for this?
Newburn: BASIL (Bay Area Seed Interchange Library) in the Berkeley Ecology Center is a seed library that has been around for 12 years. I loved the idea of a seed lending library and wanted to make the seed saving education a more integral part of the program and have it more available to the general public. Hosting the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library in the Richmond Public Library felt like a perfect fit since both serve to benefit the public and have access to resources and education as cornerstones.
Lewis: How has this impacted your community?
Newburn: A few hundred people have “borrowed” thousands of seeds from the library. The basic idea is that people take seeds, plant them and let some of them go to seed. They return the next generation of seeds. We provide free education on how to return quality seeds to the library so that others can borrow them.
We’re providing free seeds and education, which is allowing people to share resource and save money. In the process of saving seeds, we are creating seeds that are adapted to our climates and soils, which will be increasing more important in an era of erratic weather and climate change. Humans have been saving seeds for 10-12,000 years. Yet in the last 100 years, most people have stopped farming and even those people who still garden rarely save any of their own seeds. As a result, we have lost a huge amount of biodiversity.
By engaging our community in seed saving, we are reconnecting with full-cycle gardening by allowing plants to flower, which provides habitat for beneficial insects and seeds for future generations.
The library also serves as a hub where people into gardening can share ideas and resources.
Lewis: What are the education connections for the classroom?
Newburn: Seed saving is a meaningful way to connect the biology and environmental science curricula to students’ lives. The lending library is organized by plant families. Plants in the same family have similar seed saving requirements to reduce unwanted hybridization. Seed saving is an excellent way to teach about genetics. Students can apply the information in their daily lives in their own gardens or the school gardens and become part of a 12,000-year-old cycle. My vision is that over time some students who learn about seed saving will start to breed their own vegetables and create new varieties and begin to regenerate some biodiversity that has been lost in the last 100 years.
In our school garden we are doing seed saving and have signs explaining how different species are saved properly. (These signs will be available for download on our website, which unfortunately is being a bit wonky.)
Lewis: Do you think that this can be replicated in other communities?
Newburn: Yes, we’ve created the seed lending library as a replicable model. People can go to our “Create a Library” page on RichmondGrows.org and see the process of how we got started and download all of our organization and seed saving material. (Material is now available in English, Spanish and Mandarin.) Since our library opened in June 2010, over 13 other libraries have opened based on our model. Even my sixth graders at Hall Middle School are putting one in our school library in Larkspur.
We’ve connected to other seed lending libraries on our website; check out our “Sister Libraries” under our “Contact” page.
Lewis: What is your vision for the future?
Newburn: My vision is that seed libraries will be a part of school libraries and that seed saving will be an integral part of our curriculum and our school gardens. My hope is that students will appreciate the beauty of nature and it’s diversity and bounty. There is something special about being to plant a lettuce plant and get hundreds of seeds in return. Those seeds will be shared with their friends and families and in the sharing, we will start to re-create heirloom varieties because they will be passed down from generation to generation (or class to class) that have significance to us and our communities.
Lewis: What is your favorite seed from your collection?
Newburn: My favorite seed is the Oregon Spring tomato. My friend Gudrun gave it to me. She’s been growing it in her garden for a few years and it’s a big tomato that ripens early in our foggy summers. It makes me happy to have the Oregon Spring in my garden because it reminds me of my friend… and it’s delicious.
Lewis: What is the biggest surprise from this whole process?
Newburn: How quickly the idea has gone fungal.
Lewis: How can people find out more about this whole process?
Newburn: People can learn more about our libraries and seeds at our website, RichmondGrows.org. We’ve got great resources on our site, including videos on Beans and Peas and Lettuce and Sunflowers. For folks that can’t access YouTube, the videos are also on Vimeo: Beans and Peas and Lettuce and Sunflowers. More videos are being created now. Also, we’re constantly updating our Flickr page. Feel free to use our photos.
Thanks so much for your time, Rebecca. I’m looking forward to seeing how this project continues to flourish and grow!
Eris Lewis is high school area science support in the San Francisco Unified School District LEAD office and is CSTA region 2 director.
Posted: Monday, March 27th, 2017
The California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) stands with our science and science education colleagues in endorsing the March For Science and its associated activities.
The decision by the CSTA Board of Directors to support the March for Science was based on the understanding that this is an opportunity to advocate for our mission of high quality science education for all and to advance the idea that science has application to everyday life, is a vehicle for lifelong learning, and the scientific enterprise expands our knowledge of the world around us. The principles and goals of the March for Science parallel those of CSTA to assume a leadership role in solidarity with our colleagues in science and science education and create an understanding of the value of science in the greater community. CSTA believes that the integrity of the nature of science and that the work of scientists and science educators should be valued and supported. We encourage your participation to stand with us.
There are over 30 satellite marches planned for the April 22, 2017 March for Science in California (to find a march near you, click on “marches” in the upper right of the main page, select “satellite marches” and use the search feature). We encourage members who participate in the March for Science to share their involvement and promotion of science and science education. Feel free to promote CSTA on your signs and banners. For those on social media, you may share your involvement via Twitter, @cascience and our Facebook groups.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…