Posts Tagged: school gardens
Atlanta-based Captain Planet Foundation (CPF) has run a school garden program in the Metro Atlanta...
When FoodCorps begins operating in California this year, one of its "service members" will be hosted by UC Cooperative Extension in San Andreas, said an article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
FoodCorps is a national organization that connects kids with healthy food. It selected two non-profit organizations - Life Lab and Community Alliance with Family Farmers - to administer the California program. Those two organizations selected 10 hosts, including UCCE.
According to its website, FoodCrops "strives to give all youth an enduring relationship with healthy food. We do that by placing motivated leaders in limited-resource communities for a year of public service."
The paid service members:
- Teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from
- Build and tend school gardens
- Bring high-quality local food into public school cafeterias
In 1909, Ventura schoolteacher Zilda M. Rogers wrote to the Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of California, Berkeley, then the flagship agricultural campus for California’s land grant institution, and a primary proponent and provider of garden education resources for schoolteachers. Rogers wrote in some detail about how her school garden work had progressed, what the successes and failures were, how the children were responding to the opportunity to garden, how her relationship with the children had changed as a result of the garden work, and what she saw as potential for the future.
“With the love of the school garden has grown the desire for a home garden and some of their plots at home are very good. . . . Since commencing the garden work the children have become better companions and friend . . . and to feel that there is a right way of doing everything. . . . It is our garden. . . . We try to carry that spirit into our schoolroom.”
More than 100 years after Rogers wrote those words, school gardens have continued to be cherished in the public school system in which she worked. The Ventura Unified School District has developed a nationally recognized model that links school gardening, nutrition education and a farm-to-school lunch program featuring many locally sourced fruits and vegetables for its 17,000 public school students.
The University of California took note of the success that educators like Rogers were experiencing with school gardens. Being certain to include the words written by her, the University of California published Circular No. 46, which offered information about how to build school garden programs. School gardens were to be an integral part of primary schooling. As the circular declared, “The school garden has come to stay.”
School gardens had been used in parts of Europe as early as 1811, and mention of their value preceded that by nearly two centuries. Philosophers and educational reformers such as John Amos Comenius and Jean-Jacques Rousseau discussed the importance of nature in the education of children; Comenius mentioned gardens specifically.
The use and purpose of school gardens was multifold; gardens provided a place where youth could learn natural sciences (including agriculture) and also acquire vocational skills. Indeed, the very multiplicity of uses and purposes for gardens made it difficult for gardening proponents to firmly anchor gardening in the educational framework and a school’s curriculum. It still does.
The founder of the kindergarten movement, Friedrich Froebel, used gardens as an educational tool. Froebel was influenced by Swiss educational reformer Johann Pestalozzi, who saw a need for balance in education, a balance that incorporated “hands, heart, and head,” words and ideas that would be incorporated nearly two centuries later into the mission of the United States Department of Agriculture’s 4-H youth development program. (These words still guide the work of the University of California’s 4-H program). Educational leaders such as Liberty Hyde Bailey and John Dewey fused ideas of nature study and experiential education with gardening.
Perhaps one of the earliest school garden programs in the United States was developed in 1891, at the George Putnam School in Roxbury, Mass. (Today, the nationally recognized Food Project also teaches youth about gardening and urban agriculture in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston). Like others interested in gardening, Henry Lincoln Clapp, who was affiliated with the George Putnam School, traveled to Europe for inspiration. After traveling to Europe and visiting school gardens there, he partnered with the Massachusetts Horticultural Society to create the garden at Putnam; the model was replicated around the state. It was followed in relatively short order by other efforts, including a well-known garden program in New York City: the DeWitt Clinton Farm School.
Gardening became nearly a national craze during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and “school” gardens enjoyed immense popularity. The United States Department of Agriculture estimated that there were more than 75,000 school gardens by 1906. As their popularity soared, advocates busily supplied a body of literature about school gardening and agricultural education.
One book argued that school gardens were not a “new phase of education,” but rather, an “old one” that was gaining merit for its ability to accomplish a wide variety of needs. School gardens were a way to reconnect urbanized American youth with their agrarian, producer heritage, the Jeffersonian idea of the sturdy yeoman farmer. One author argued for the importance of gardening education and nature study for both urban and rural youth, for “sociological and economic” reasons.
One important reason to garden with urban youth was to teach “children to become producers as well as consumers,” and for the possibility “of turning the tide of population toward the country, thus relieving the crowded conditions of the city.” Other reformers echoed this idea, including Jacob Riis, who said, “The children as well as the grown people were ‘inspired to greater industry and self-dependence.’ They faced about and looked away from the slum toward the country.” It’s now more than a century later, the average American farmer is in his/her late 50s, and the need to reconnect a new generation of youth to the land seems even more compelling. Could the school gardens of today provide the farmers of tomorrow?
The school garden movement received a huge boost during World War I, when the Federal Bureau of Education introduced the United States School Garden Army. During the interwar years and the Great Depression, youth participated in relief gardening. During World War II, a second Victory Garden program swept the nation, but after that, school garden efforts became the exception, not the norm.
The 1970s environmental movement brought renewed interest to the idea of school and youth gardening, and another period of intense growth began in the early 1990s. Interest in farm-to-school has continued to breathe life into the school garden movement, and some states, notably California, have developed legislation to encourage school gardens. (Under the tenure of State Education superintendent Delaine Eastin, a Garden in Every School program was begun. Under Jack O’Connell’s tenure, Assembly Bill 1535, which funded school gardens, was approved).
We should all take note of the tagline for the U.S. government’s youth gardening program in World War I: “A Garden for Every Child. Every Child in a Garden.” Wouldn’t this be a great idea today? With the cuts in school funding, increased classroom size and other challenges, some school garden programs are facing real challenges. They deserve our support, not only in practice (volunteer!) but also by our advocacy for public policies that support youth gardening work in school and community settings. Why not advocate for a nationally mandated curriculum that promotes food systems education in American public schools, something like “Race to the Crop”?
Some of the best models for school gardens lie in our past. But the real potential of school gardens to reduce obesity, encourage a healthy lifestyle, reconnect youth with the food system and to build healthier, vibrant communities is something we can realize today . . . and is something that should be an important concern of our national public policy.
A note to readers: Google Books contains copies of two important books in the school gardening literature of the Progressive Era, (Miller and Greene’s), as well as numerous other Progressive era books pertaining to gardening and agricultural education. To learn more about the United States School Garden Army’s efforts during WWI (a GREAT model for a national curriculum today!), visit theUC Victory Grower website.
This week, UC’s Agricultural Sustainability Institute has provided opportunities for a wide range of individuals working within the food system to connect with on-the-ground projects. I had the privilege of visiting Grant Union High School’s GEO Environmental and Design Academy, which includes a gardening and cooking program. (Students learn about environmental horticulture, design and science. The interdisciplinary program also provides literature experiences that focus on food systems issues. They also learn about healthy nutrition and cooking, which is linked to the state-mandated health curriculum). I’ve admired the work of Ann Marie Kennedy, who teaches in the program, for a long time, and I leapt at the opportunity to meet her and visit with students participating in the program.
Grant Union High School is an urban high school located in Sacramento. The school is in an economically challenged area, and approximately 50% of its students are English language learners. It is a diverse student population that reflects the diversity of California and the nation. It is known statewide for the success of its football program but it’s also known across the United States for its garden and Garden Café program.
Ann Marie said something interesting about the students enrolled in the program: “They are disconnected from agriculture, but they are not disconnected from food.”
My experience at Grant proved that thesis, and mirrored the students’ lesson for that day. First we discussed agreements (safety, respect, learning from others, participating). We were asked to identify vegetables, and then given the task of harvesting specific vegetables from the garden. The model for garden management has provided a good portion of the program’s sustainability in the last ten years. It is essentially a shared school and community garden, which I believe is one of the best models for school garden sustainability. Community gardeners have individual plots, but assist in the school garden areas. Some of the community gardeners have children or grandchildren enrolled at Grant, but others are connected to the school simply through their love of gardening and the opportunity to cultivate food.
After we harvested the vegetables, we came inside. We also received lessons taught by a student, Adrian, and a former student who now serves as a mentor, Ja Thor. Adrian taught us about knife and cutting safety (absolutely one of the best kitchen demonstrations I’ve ever seen). Ja explained how the color-coded cutting boards worked, exploring the concept of food cross-contamination with us.
The visitors worked alongside the students to wash and chop the vegetables and prepare lunch in the wonderful kitchen, which was funded by a grant from Kaiser. While some cooked, others set the communal table or washed dishes. When lunch was ready, we sat down and ate a healthy chicken and vegetable chow mien with a garden-fresh salad loaded with extras, like fruit. We were also given the opportunity to sample Grant’s salsa, which is sold commercially, and provides a real-life business incubator for seniors enrolled in the program.
The lunch was, simply, amazing. Not only the food, but the chance to speak with students and learn about how the program has influenced their lives. All of them expressed that they have appreciated the opportunities for leadership that the program provides. (And in fact, the onsite program manager, Fatima Malik, who works for the Health Education Council in partnership with Grant High School, is a graduate of the program. She went on to study nutrition at UC Davis, and is now working at Grant. The program is also “staffed” by student volunteers from UC Davis. Students enrolled in the program have opportunities to serve as leaders in various capacities. The entire program provided a superb example of nested leadership and mentoring opportunities for youth).
The students also noted that they are eating more fruits and vegetables. Some of them are primary shoppers and food preparers in their families, and the result is that their families are also consuming healthier foods. Nearly all of the students related taking what they had learned in the classroom home, and shared with pride anecdotes about cooking for family members, including parents and grandparents. They expressed that the program provides a new way for them to look at what they do at home. Each said that participation in the program has helped them build relationships, and that they find acceptance in the program.
After lunch, each visitor had an opportunity to sit with students and ponder several reflection questions. I asked students what they wanted people to know. One student said we need to consider the value of buying local. Another wanted to share the health benefits of fruits and vegetable consumption. Yet another student wanted people to know that fruits and vegetables “aren’t nasty if you make them right.” (This same student told me he likes fruits more than vegetables, but aspires “to travel the world to find a veggie to fall in love with.”)
You can learn more about the program by reading this newspaper article, which appears in the Davis Enterprise.
I left my visit with an enormous sense of gratitude for the work of staff at Grant Union High (particularly Ann Marie and Fatima). I also left with a profound sense of awe for the students whom I spent half a day with. I have a great deal of confidence and hope in a future that includes their leadership.
But I also left with the idea that this exceptional program ought not to be the exception, but rather, the norm. If we are truly committed to a healthy future and a healthy nation, we need upstream programs like this, that provide opportunities for youth engagement with soil, healthy food, and mentors who will encourage their leadersh
A three-year UC Berkeley study shows that students who get a steady curriculum of gardening, cooking and nutrition have significantly better eating habits than children who don't get the same instruction, according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The report, by UC Berkeley's Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health, looks at how an integrated approach to food education at the elementary-school level contributes to children's desire to eat fruits and vegetables.