The Second grade classes have collaborated with the Portola Branch Library to design and build a community seed library for the neighborhood. A Seed Library follows the model of a book library. People can borrow seeds from a seed library, plant them, enjoy the food, and let some of the plants go to maturity. Seed borrowers harvest seed from mature plants to replenish the seed library so other people can borrow seeds.
The first seed library, BASIL, was birthed in Berkeley in 1999 and a few years later in 2003, the second seed library was created in New York at a public library. The seed library movement began as a response to promote seed diversity and food security in a time when these things are disappearing.
Only 4% of the commercial vegetable varieties being grown in 1903 are still in cultivation today. Due to multinational agribusiness corporations like Monsanto and DuPont, the vast majority of fields are growing genetically modified corn, canola, cotton and soy. For thousands of years, it was fundamental for humans to save seeds, however as urbanization expands, fewer people practice seed saving and interact with the food in this way.
The 2nd graders followed the Design Thinking Process to create Portola’s Seed Library. We met with Nicole, the librarian and client, and students asked her questions to learn about her needs. After learning about the gardening history in the neighborhood and that Nicole was interested in hosting a seed library in the library, students brainstormed ways to store seeds, organize seeds, and systemize Portola’s Seed Library.
In their letter writing unit in class, students wrote letters to seed companies and nurseries asking for donations for this community service project. We received seed donations from Horizon Herbs, Sloat Gardens, Siskiyou Seeds, Petaluma Seed Bank and more! Then, students worked in groups to build prototypes that they tested and received feedback on. Once we found the perfect dresser, Katherine Stark made fruit and vegetable stencils that students painted onto the dresser. In order to organize each drawer, students learned about plant families. This was a wonderful “aha!” moment for many students. Most students began seeing plants in a new way and learned that when different plants have similar characteristics, they may be in the same plant family.
Nicole made a special visit on the day that both classes put together Portola’s Seed Library. Students worked in groups as they designed the drawers and sorted hundreds of seed packets into the appropriate drawer. Tallulah, Ayush, and Scarlett did the artwork for the pamphlet and posters that explain how Portola’s Seed Library works.
We will be installing Portola’s Seed Library in the Portola Branch Library the last week of school. It will be open to the community to use and fill with seeds. This community service project provides an efficient system for sharing locally grown seeds that are adapted to the microclimate of the neighborhood and allows people to have access to gardening resources. If you are interested in growing a garden at home or saving seed, please visit the Portola Branch Library to check out Portola’s Seed Library!