Progress has been slow, gradual, but steady, and with a dedicated board, passionate Director, and her creative paid and voluntary staff on the ground, GSF seems to be exploding and advancing toward its goal of
“providing an interdisciplinary program of education through garden based
learning in outdoor living classrooms”
The tagline has always been:
“turning asphalt into ecosystems” and the standards based lessons and
cooking classes have been brilliant in giving these often, underserved and
underprovided for kids, those tools.
In 2008, I had the opportunity to develop the “Herb Project”
there, with Nat Zappia, who was then Director, and is now on our GSF
board. We led a selection of the top,
most motivated 5th graders, in a program of learning, through the study
of herbs; building raised beds, planting and growing seedlings and seeds,
studying herb origins and botanical names, cooking and creating recipes and
then, sitting down together at a set table to share in the bounty of their
labors and lessons.
Each child was given a journal at the beginning of the
session, without which they couldn’t attend the class, and they were required
to record botanical names and observed notes from our plant discovery
throughout the year, while taping herb cuttings on each page for identification
and “study”. I brought in Restaurant and
Bakery owners who were clients of mine, to talk about the food on their menu,
the life of a restaurateur and the business of food. We grew and studied the herbs of each
restaurant and “sold” them at the end of the year, in exchanges for goodies
from their restaurant and bakery fare. I
gave them packaging classes where they created designs and packaging for the
herbs that they were growing, so they would be “marketable” to their
customers. I brought in local artisan
foods for them to see and taste and become inspired by in their
creativity. They were on fire with
They took home plastic buckets to bring back, with kitchen
scraps, to fuel the garden’s compost pile, and conversations around nutrition
and what’s on the table at night and for breakfast.
At the end of each Herb Project session, I would set a beautiful
table in front of the shed in the garden, with cotton tablecloth and napkins,
colored plastic cups and silverware, ball jars filled with garden flowers and
baskets of fresh pastry from one of my clients.
We would all cook together at the opposite outdoor table, making herbed
scrambled eggs and herbed sautéed potatoes for our meal and for showing off
their egg cracking skills what they’d grown in the garden.
Invariably, each time, when napkins were placed on laps and
students waiting eagerly for their garden breakfast meal, one of them would
blurt out, “this is just like the rich; like the rich in a restaurant”; I would
then say, “isn’t it great that we don’t have to be rich to eat this way? That
we ARE rich; rich in food and ourselves?” And another student would always
shout out, “we are rich, we are rich, we are rich in vegetables”.
Now the classes in the garden teach every student in the
school and give them cooking, botany, science and math, literature, spelling
and simple garden pleasures backed with lessons in food security and
environmental awareness. And they are
learning with joy, and they feel rich!