Monday, December 8, 2008


School gardens aren’t a new idea. Upscale Montessori and Waldorf classrooms have incorporated hands on learning for decades. But, until recently, you didn’t find very many school gardens in big city schools.

The path to this edible schoolyard starts in Berkley’s Chez Panisse restaurant. Co-founder Alice Waters is one of the pioneers in the use of fresh, local, in season ingredients. The restaurant models its offerings around the small French eateries with menus that reflect what was available in the local markets that morning.

Add a local middle school principal less than happy about a story in the local paper that quoted Ms Winter’s remarks about the appearance of grounds around his school and you get……fresh veggies. In 1993 Martin Luther King Middle School had nearly one thousand students from widely divergent economic and ethnic backgrounds. The school cafeteria was closed; it was too small. Students could buy microwaved or package items at a location in the parking lot. The school was nearly surrounded by blacktop.

The principal wrote Alice a note. She asked him to lunch. When the idea for the school garden was broached “she was already at step ten.” It took nearly two years but part of the black top has been replaced by a one acre organic garden. The students incorporate what they learn in the garden with their science, math and language classes.

The cafeteria has been renovated and is also a class room. The kids learn how to prepare what they’ve grown, cook it and serve it. Approximately one third of the schools students prepare and share what they’ve grown each week. They sit down at tables with tablecloths and flowers and share what they’ve prepared.

Along the way the students learn where their food comes from. Their garden is a little oasis in the city. They learn there is a cycle from worm to soil to food to the kitchen and back again.The kids even build simple fences and arbor type structures with their teachers. Each ninety minute garden class is followed the next day with journal entries. Many of the class room lessons are ecology based and may include studying the effects of pesticides, composting, or growing earthworms.

Link to the Edible Schoolyard website. Includes information about the garden, lesson plans, and some recipes.

Cross posted in Women On.

1 comment:

alphawoman said...

When I first read on Women On about your idea I had an immediate reaction! that this was/is a great idea! I am unemployed also and when I think about my dream job it involves working with local growers producers and truly bringing the community together by buying local. I'm just blabbing right now...There is a great web-site called YOU GROW GIRL that is very cool. Also, there is a movement called CSA which is signing up and under contract (for lack of a better word) to purchase produce grown locally once a week for a designated perios (maybe 24 weeks. While living in Ft Wayne, they had a place called the South Side Farmers Market which was this funky building (heated by pot bellied stoves) where the locals sold everything imaginable kind of like flea market/farmers market. I loved it and think trying to replicate it ...but it would be impossible.