Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Edible Schoolyard

Why I did not know about the Edible Schoolyard project, I cannot say. It is just a few miles away in Berkeley, CA. There are acres of beautiful garden on a school campus in the San Francisco Bay Area. The garden is stunning: tomatoes, corn, kiwi, berries, chard, mint, mulberry, pears, apples, quinoa, beans, lettuce, sage, borage, and other plants that I cannot recall.

But, when I saw the gloves with all the lefts and rights paired-up on a rack near the garden shed door, upside-down pairs of muddied rubber garden boots on racks, the garden shed, neat as a pin, with the wheelbarrows lined up against the wall, the composting pile, the green house with its seedlings, the chicken coop (with the movable mini coop (hmmm) that is used to fertilize the garden patches), the pergola, with its hay bail benches and the not-so-ready-to-pick kiwi hanging from vines woven through its rafters, the only thought that kept striking my mind was, This is the most civilized approach to schooling that I have seen! Ever!

The students, at this PUBLIC URBAN middle school learn about the value of healthy eating by growing the food themselves. The lesson, on the day that I toured the garden, seemed centered around the taste of freshly picked corn. The instructors brought corn from the local store, the students picked corn from the garden and they had a compare and contrast taste test seated at wooden benches in front of an old brick fireplace on one side of the garden. The students also learn how to prepare and cook the food they harvest.

The healthy-eating theme is carried throughout the school environment. The students 'commune' in the beautiful dining hall for half an hour (no books or backpacks allowed) and then play and mingle on the grounds for half an hour. There is a kitchen garden of herbs (ever seen one of those in English period films?) right outside the door of the dining hall kitchen, where students are free to wander. After an hour of lunch, the students spend, a half hour in silent reading before returning to their core classes.

Imagine if every urban and suburban school board, throughout the country, could implement a program like this in their schools? Just imagine!

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