A year ago, students at Enadia Way Elementary School were afraid that their garden, 10,000 square feet of flowers, fruit trees, and vegetables, was going to be a casualty of the drought currently wreaking havoc in Southern California. Since 2009 when the garden began as just six flower boxes, students of the Los Angeles school have made it a part of their curriculum. Each class is required to spend half an hour in the garden each week, and their efforts have paid off royally. Last year, the garden funded itself – their produce sold for $4000 in a weekly farmer’s market.

Guided by parent volunteer Ynes Zavala, the garden is a classroom in itself. Young students learn to identify plants. Older kids learn descriptive writing, entomology, and plant propagation.

This year, special attention is being paid to responsible drought practices. The soil is enriched with mulch to hold onto more water. Crops are planted close to each other to minimize loss, and plants are hand-watered. Students are taught about where their water comes from and where water-loss happens most.

The district area superintendent, Vivian Ekchian, is so impressed by the Enadia garden that she wants to spread the practice to more of the 80-odd schools under her preview. Already, a second project is underway to transform a 4300-square-foot brown lawn into an all-native garden. Plants native to Southern California are already drought plants, simply by the nature of the area. It’s imports like green lawn and ornamental soft-leaf shrubs that need assiduous, wasteful watering.

Enadia does not measure the water it uses for the gardens there, but Ekchian wants other schools who begin their own garden projects to incorporate that as a learning tool. Older students can learn to calculate how much water per zucchini, how many gallons per tree. The gardens use more water than an empty sheet of asphalt, it’s true, but they give measurable substance in return.