Senior rebuilds local preschool garden for prestigious Girl Scout Gold Award

September 16, 2019 — by Vicky Bai and Christine Zhang

As Sanya Kwatra, then a junior, stood in front of the broken-down garden in Saratoga Community Preschool last April, tools and supplies in hand, she realized that her extensive planning had paid off. Her project to rebuild the garden at the school was almost finished. 

Kwatra, who has been a Girl Scout for 12 years, renovated the garden and made plans for a sandbox at Saratoga Community Preschool to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award. The current senior planned the project throughout the latter half of her sophomore year and the first half of her junior year. She did the majority of the physical work in rebuilding the garden last spring break. 

To renovate the garden, she built a wood structure at the entrance of the garden and taught the preschoolers how to plant and maintain the garden. 

Kwatra chose the project because she was already involved at the site. She had worked together with senior Prisha Samdarshi to repaint a mural at the preschool for their joint Silver Award in middle school, and during that time, one of the faculty members had talked to them about how the garden was in need of repair. 

“My troop has done a lot of projects with that preschool, so we knew the principal already,” Kwatra said. “I also knew that the garden was in bad condition, so I thought it would be good to rebuild, since so many kids from here go to that preschool.” 

The approval process for Kwatra’s project took nearly eight months — from the winter break of her sophomore year to the beginning of her junior year. She was required to obtain city approval for her plan, and because of Girl Scout policy prohibiting fundraisers, she also had to ask the city for donations for her tools and supplies, including wood, soil, screws and nails. By the time she finished gathering all her materials, it was the winter break of her junior year. 

Her father taught her how to use the tools, and she then relayed the skills to four of her friends, who helped her rebuild the garden. 

Kwatra was also in regular contact with the principal of the preschool, Marianne Swan. She talked to Swan about where to grow each plant, and she also involved preschoolers in the planting process. 

“I helped decide which plants would go where in the garden,” Kwatra said. “I didn’t teach the kids myself — I just talked to the principal about where to best put the plants, and I helped the teachers make a lesson plan to teach the kids basic gardening.” 

Despite having only a week during spring break, Kwatra said that the total hours to do the actual labor was around 60 or 70. She officially received the Gold Award during the summer. 

Through her project, Kwatra said that she learned many lessons. She also enjoyed doing the manual labor. 

“I’ve never done something with my hands, so that was cool,” Kwatra said. “I had to lead the team, and talking with so many adults was not normal.” 

Kwatra said she does not have any concrete plans to expand on her work in the near future. Since the Gold Award is structured so that the community service projects can move forward by themselves, Kwatra hopes that Swan and others at the school can work with the kids and city maintenance to keep the garden in its spruced up condition. 


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At UC Berkeley, PhD student Abrar Abidi and research assistant Yvonne Hao have embarked on a goal of creating hand sanitizer for the Bay Area's most vulnerable populations, including the homeless and the incarcerated. Their hand sanitizer includes glycerol mixed with other products, in accordance with a formula from the World Health Organization. So far, they are producing 120 hundreds of gallons of sanitizer each week. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Makasdjian with UC Berkeley.


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