Check out my new book, The Non-Toxic Avenger: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You, available from Amazon.

2012 Silver winner in the Health/Medicine/Nutrition Category of the Independent Publishers Book Awards

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The edible schoolyard

I have to say, I'm super excited by the fact that my kids' elementary school has plans to create space for a vegetable garden. The building of the space was underway during June and the kindergarten class helped put in plant starts right before school ended. So far, they've got beans, summer squash, corn, sunflowers and a whole host of other goodies in.

The rest is getting prepped for planting. Since it's being built in an area that was formerly grass, there is a bit of work to do and I really don't want to think of what kind of chemicals or contaminants might be in the soil (I hope someone tested it). But, at the very least, it's showing the couple hundred children that go to school there, as well as their parents, that growing your own food is actually quite easy.

I can't say that I had any part of getting this arranged since it sounds like it was the kindergarten class that got it going. They even have parents signed up all summer to come down and water the plants. Since I live a few blocks away and we use the park and playground next door all the time, it will be interesting to watch how it progresses.

I'm hoping the other classes will integrate lessons into the new space. I know they grow edible plants from seed, so this is very encouraging that they have somewhere to plant them. (We have a pumpkin plant my son started growing in class that now resides in the potato bin - don't ask). The local high school has been selling plant starts every spring in their parking lot for at least the last two years. I believe it's part of the botany class, but they always have a fairly decent selection of plants to buy.

Does your local school system encourage food gardening on their grounds?

19 comments:

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

How exciting! I hope our local schools will see the value of that kind of education and get on board. Maybe by the time my son is in school (3 years?).

fearlesschef said...

NO they don't. I have sent letters, made phone calls and petitioned to have something worked into the curriculum. The most frustrating response I got was one from the school board that was totally a form letter telling me to jump in a lake. Not even the rural schools have programs or gardens. There is an agricultural technical institute, though, if you'd like your lettuce with a side of GMO!

Jennifer said...

My son goes to a free school and they grow inside, which is cool, but I wish they had a bigger outside garden plot. He used to go to an eco-charter when he was six, and they grew with cold frames, rain barrels, and more, and he still talks about it. I think all schools should have some sort of gardening plan - it's way more hands on science than texts.

Kristijoy said...

Several schools in Portland have been doing this, the most noteable is probly Sunnyside Enviornmental Elementary (and yes it's in the public school system!).

Farmer's Daughter said...

Right up my alley!

I teach botany/environmental science (and also forensics and biology...) and have a greenhouse attached to my room. The biggest problem I've encountered is that the school year and the growing season are direct opposites, since the school calendar was originally developed for farming societies.

My students all brought home a bunch of their own plant starts, and they got to grow whatever they wanted throughout the year in the greenhouse. I do also have a few plans in the works:

-the food/nutrition teacher and I want to do a joint project where we grow ingredients (say for salsa) and the food kids prepare meals. I think it would be awesome!

-I want to take over the courtyard at school and plant a bunch of bulbs, corms, tubers, etc. in the fall when we talk about plant structure, and then all the kids will be able to see them come up in the spring.

I developed this program over the past 4 years, but I must say that this involves a ton of work for the teachers, which I'm sure is part of why many schools are resistant. I spends so much time at the garden center, lugging soil up to the 3rd floor where my classroom and greenhouse are located, and then trying to clean out the place each year. We accept donations of people's plastic pots and half-used seed packs, so we try to be environmentally friendly that way.

My big concern is that my botany program has grown from 9 kids my first year to about 75 next year, and space in the greenhouse becomes an issue. I'm looking into getting many more hanging pots and stackable shelving to make it work.

It is so rewarding! So many of my students have reconnected with their parents and grandparents by helping them in the garden. They brag about how many peas they got, how big their tomato plants are. Some kids from last year even came in to show me pictures of how the plants did over the summer. I love this class!

We also take a trip to my family's farm in the fall, have speakers come in to address the local foods movement (farmers, chefs, scientists, etc.).

Sorry my comment was so long :)

Deanna said...

No need to apologize, Abbie, that was awesome. I'm glad there are teachers out there going the extra mile to educate kids about something we should already know all about. They are plants for crying out loud! I think kids know more about penguins than lettuce these days.

Jenette said...

My daughters preschool had a wonderful garden (got us to expand our tiny one). But the kindergarten not so much ... at least there are strawberries :)

Toria said...

My kids school (local public schood) has an outdoor classroom/environmental centre & it has gardens as part of that. All of the classes have their own gardens, most are vegetables, but they have planted natives around the area as well. Apart from the actual gardening, they all have other lessons in the area, varying with their age.

My 8 year old had a basic cooking class recently, using what they could pick from the garden.

knutty knitter said...

Gardens have always been a part of our school/kindy/preschool. The whole school shifted three years back to an old state school with a ton of space to develop. (we are integrated but not mainstream) The kindy have their garden pretty right and the older kids are starting on the big bank area now. We all helped with the big native bush area so it is looking more as it should. Long term I think this will be a wonderful place and the views are spectacular.

viv in nz

Amber said...

My 4-year-old's preschool has a garden, and they grow lots of fruit and veggies. I love it!

Sadly our public school system doesn't encourage or support growing food. I really wish it did.

Farmer's Daughter said...

Deanna- I agree. They also know more about the tropical rain forest than their own ecosystem. I'm working on revamping my env. sci. curriculum to be "place-based," which means learning science concepts through where you are: so for example, the geology of your place, water and soil quality there, weather patterns and climate there, plant and animal species there, etc.

But again, all of this is work. I'm very fortunate in that I'll have a student teacher next year, and two lab assistants, who are students that took my classes in the past and will help with set-up and lab work (one for env. sci. and one for forensics). OH, and I have the next two months off to dream about how to make it all work :)

Anonymous said...

Our son goes to a fantastic non profit private school (1-8) where they have a large garden, berries, orchard (which was just planted a year ago so it will be some time before it bears fruit) and animals. All of the children take part in the farming and all of it is used for food in the school kitchen-including the animals. The kids have a very good relationship w/where their food comes from and know that the animals are not pets, but may eventually be lunch. A ton of classroom time takes place outside in nature.

June said...

The great thing about homeschooling for us is that our garden is just another part of the "classroom." I LOVE seeing how committed others are to bringing garden and great food to kids everywhere!

Anonymous said...

the scholl district doesn't really support us but I've coordinated our scholl garden club for over 10 years. we have 13 raised beds and I'm headed there right now for summer garden club. gotta run (bike actually!)

diana

Emily said...

In Windsor, Ontario there is a fantastic little school named St. Francis. They have their own veggie garden to help supplement their student nutrition program as well as a wonderfully landscaped garden surrounding the school. Each student participates in both the flower and veggie garden. It is a wonderful project and a wonderful school.
The nonprofit I work for also does a wee bit of gardening. We go into the schools and talk about where food comes from, the environment etc, etc. The highlight of the program for the students is when we actually plant something. This occurs once a week and the children learn how to grow a container garden on their balcony or patio (many of our families do not have access to land and are low-income/high risk). The success of this program comes from the willingness of the teachers to let us come in and talk about food. The program has been asked for again next year and we are pleased that children are so excited about growing their own food.

saskatsguidetocheaplivin said...

This seems to be a growing trend, I hope with a little nudging from parents, my son's school can do something like this. What a cool idea.

esme said...

Yes, my daughter's elementary school has one dedicated parent that is instrumental in getting the school gardens, edible and non, going. All it takes is one dedicated person to inspire many others. I am getting more involved myself this year and can't wait to see how it becomes integrated into the fabric of school life.

Mary Hunt said...

How good to hear. I hadn't thought about planting seeds before you leave and coming back to a fully mature garden. That's almost magic.

I tried to get teen moms to grow veggies, they didn't know how to put a bean in the ground. Thank goodness they are starting younger.

Lisa Sharp said...

That's awesome!

I don't have kids but my husband is a 5th grade teacher and his school does nothing green lol. He did talk his building in to recycling and the kids are very excited about it! I hope that means there will be more green steps.

The science teacher in my husband's building is somewhat green from what he has said so she is helping with taking the recycling to the near by town's recycling center. (small town with no recycling what so ever!)

LinkWithin