This summer, construction on the first east-coast affiliate of the Edible Schoolyard Program, developed by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, is set to begin at P.S. 216 in Brooklyn. The new $1.6 million, solar-powered building will house a kitchen and communal tables where children can share the foods they grow in the garden outside. This photo, courtesy of the New York Times, depicts a rendering of what the garden will look like.
Teachers will use the garden to give students lessons in subjects like math, science, and history. There are also plans for a chicken coop, portable greenhouse, and composting system, outdoor pizza oven, and cistern for collecting rainwater.
While the program does have its critics, I think it’s a wonderful idea. I wish we’d had something like this when I was in school. I think we went apple-picking once as a class, and we also had an incubator full of eggs that never hatched, but that was about it.
While I have to nod along when I hear Alice Waters called “a bit of a fruitcake,” I admire her stance on the importance of understanding where our food comes from and taking joy in providing loved ones with something delicious that’s good for them, and I agree that if we want to change the eating habits of Americans, we need to start with children.
I think teaching kids how to grow a garden and what they can do with what they cultivate is a timely endeavor, especially given the push to develop more urban gardens—you gotta learn sometime and somewhere. Why not in school? Worst comes to worst, they’ll grow up to be marijuana farmers in New Jersey or California. One could do worse.
One thing not mentioned in any of the articles I’ve read about the Edible Schoolyard or Alice Waters is the therapeutic aspect of gardening. Though I have as yet to catch the bug myself, I come from a family of gardeners. My mom could often be found tending to the flowers or vegetables when I was a kid, and the summer my grandfather lived with us after my grandma died, he was out in the sun almost every day, pulling up weeds, trimming, and watering. As my mom put it, “He knew how to mourn.”
A lot of people also find it very satisfying to grow beautiful plants. Even Chris has his “babies”—a shell ginger, sunflower, basil, oregano, and aloe plant. I wonder if he sings to them when I’m not home…It’s somehow calming to be surrounded by plants. It’s also good feng shui, if you’re into that.