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Creating Edible Classrooms

IMG_3464_2As a Green City Growers business development intern, my primary focus has been spent cultivating new restaurant clients, various sales and marketing tasks like research and web page development, and learning the ins and outs of a company that helps individuals, businesses, and schools grow their own food. However, every GCG intern is given the opportunity to do some “field” work with the farmers. On two occasions I was lucky enough to follow Farmer Adrienne into the field to see all our hard work in the office put to action. Here are my recollections of those fun mornings as a member of the urban farming crew.

8:00am – I race to GCG HQ, running behind because of my late night at work the night before. My travel coffee mug is full to the brim. I take small quick sips, yearning for the caffeine to kick in with every burning gulp. I have on rain pants with suspenders I have borrowed from my father, so big that I must use the Velcro cuffs as tight as they will go. It is pouring rain today, the day I’ve been scheduled to spend in the garden with Leilani and Adrienne and the third graders of two Beverly elementary schools.  I quickly head inside where Leilani is grabbing items to load up the GCG truck, tools, trowels, gloves, as well as a white board and dry erase markers. Adrienne is making a sandwich in the GCG kitchen for later. “Ready to go? You look ready! Those pants are hard core, I love them.” Leilani says to me. I was ready, and had been looking forward to seeing some action out in the field with the GCG urban farmers.

Once we arrive we decide to have an indoor lesson due to the weather. The student’s desks are grouped into four desk clusters, not all facing the front but cockeyed and facing every which way. Adrienne starts to make a chart; she draws a long line down the middle of the smart board with “good/ beneficial’s” on one side of the line, “bad/ pests” on the other. It was wonderful to see the excitement of the students, and their eager hands shoot up, hoping to be the one that gets called on to answer. While the farmers are teaching, I observe in the back of the classroom where the head teacher is grading papers quietly, she whispers to me,  “students participate a lot more during gardening than other subjects. I wouldn’t see all these hands raised in a history lesson I’ll tell you that!”

Everyday in the GCG office we see the farmers head out for the day to create and maintain urban gardens, educate people on how to farm their own vegetables, and teach in edible classrooms. School gardening programs are becoming more popular in urban areas, creating a hands on experience for students to learn a variety of subjects such as math, science, social science and art.

“I think it’s really great for kids who don’t do well in a traditional setting. Shy students take control and feel confident in the classroom” Leilani tells me as we head over to another school on my second day spent with the farmers. On this day, although chilly, there are no clouds in the sky and we anticipate being able to teach outside. When we arrive we get to work, opening up the cold frames and see what has progressed since the last time Adrienne and Leilani were here. We hear a chatter of children, as 16 children round the corner and take their seats on the steps by their garden. On this day we discuss pests and beneficial bugs again, and how things are pollinated. These students are just as eager to answer the farmers questions and make lists. After the lesson we are able to show the kids what has grown, what bugs, both beneficial and pesty were present in their garden.

By – Bettina Reece

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