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What is the SAGE Program?

The Science and Gardening Emphasis Program (SAGE) Program at Santa Cruz Gardens is an integrated approach to public education that guides students toward a deeper relationship with the natural world. With thoughtfully crafted learning experiences rooted in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), students develop an understanding of the interconnectedness of our ecosystems, are empowered by their role in this complex system, and work to cultivate their compassion and allyship as Stewards of the Earth.


We believe that students who grow up with their hands in the soil and a personal relationship with the plants and animals that they share this space we call home, will be more likely to stand up for what is important to them, ensuring that this planet is healthy and taken care of so we– along with future generations–can thrive.


What does SAGE look like around campus?

Learning outside the four walls of a classroom is central to a happy and healthy learning environment. Here at SCG our students have played a leading role in designing, building and learning in permanent outdoor learning spaces. The SAGE Garden located at the front of the school is not only a great place to learn, it is an ever growing space for classes to contribute to. This once underutilized space at the front of our school is now a nearly, 4,000 sq.ft. multizonal learning environment where students can take a mindful walk through the sensory zone, learn more about specific adaptations in the native and drought tolerant zones or sit with friends on the student designed and built Buddy Bench as they grab a snack in the edible zone as they wait for pick up at the end of the school day.


In early 2023, the Poetry Trail, created by second grade students, offers a rotating outdoor publication venue for students to share their poetry with their peers and learning community. Outdoor learning spaces like these show our commitment to learning outside.


At the heart of our campus is The Living Classroom (TLC). This grassroots garden program has grown literally and figuratively over many years to become the 1,300 sq. ft. thriving garden classroom that exists today. Students enjoy weekly classes in this outdoor edible classroom as well as in the indoor laboratory we call “Area 51”. Upper grades investigate a real-world challenge such as the ubiquity of food waste in landfills and design actionable solutions, such as tracking and diverting food waste on site. Our upper grade students meet with our Life Lab trained educators to explore their role as stewards of the Earth through the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).


What does SAGE look like in the classroom?

Our highly trained educators have developed a practice for how to integrate NGSS into all subject matter through hands-on real world problem solving based on Project Based Learning and Nature Journaling learning models. They do this by using a keen eye for natural phenomena occurring around campus. They are always on the lookout for current events that will create teachable moments. Modeling these practices in front of their students allows space to unpack how scientists and engineers think.


Real world problem solving can be seen regularly in math discussions as students calculate data they have collected from the field or as they continue to problem solve the budget for a project they are working on. Current events related to climate change, green energy, environmental conservation are researched through a variety of sources and written about in published projects. All of this work is done through thematic units in addition to the FOSS science curriculum adopted district wide. These best practices are the cornerstones of the SAGE Program.

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