Today’s blog post was written by Steve Reiher, VP of Marketing & Development for Operation Kids.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the open house for the Edible Schoolyard project at Green Charter School in New Orleans. Green Charter School is an open-access, public school serving more than 320 students in grades K-8. Most of Green’s students come from economically disadvantaged areas of New Orleans; in fact, about 95% qualify for the federal free or reduced-cost lunch program.
As part of our “Rebuilding Dreams in New Orleans” campaign, the goal of the Edible Schoolyard is to integrate organic gardening and fresh, seasonal cooking into the school’s curriculum and culture. Students participate in gardening and cooking lessons that reinforce classroom coursework in such core subjects as science, social studies, language and math.
The project revives and promotes the rich gardening and culinary heritages of New Orleans while providing hands-on growing and cooking experiences for public school students. The project is based on the highly successful Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, California, a project of renowned chef Alice Waters and the Chez Panisse Foundation.
Students, teachers and community supporters participated in the event, along with Alice Waters and members of the Chez Panisse Foundation. Students prepared and served tasty refreshments made from fruits and vegetables grown in the garden. It was a great event and, more importantly, a tremendous addition to the educational environment for current and future students of Green School.
“Berkeley can be easily dismissed as, ‘You can only do it in Berkeley,’ Alice said. “But to come here and see this school and how it’s taken root in this culture, and the set of values, this can be used to transform any school in America. I’m proud and I’m touched. And I love that in a way, it’s not just a garden in a school, it’s a school in a garden. It’s helped transform how the thinking in the school has evolved over the past year.”
Teacher Ronika Harrison said the garden allows her to “come up with amazing lessons. We did poetry in the garden, using it as inspiration. And this is the area where we come out and do our reading groups. It encourages teamwork. And patience. It’s not like microwave-world.”
“Some might say this is a distraction from math and science, but I would say the opposite, that it’s a practical way to apply math and science,” said school founder and principal Tony Recasner. “And it’s so rare in an inner-city school that kids can be out of doors in a positive environment.” Tony went on to say that the student’s attitudes about the school and community are much more positive because of the garden, and that typical playground aggression is lessened because the students know each other so well working together on projects and as team members.
Operation Kids chose to support the Edible Schoolyard project because of the impact it makes on students, their families and the community. We also recognized the skills, innovation and hard work of the staff and community task force supporting the project. They have been accountable and transparent in all aspect of the project.
We’ll continue to work with them as they finish off the project at Green by building a new kitchen area for students to learn culinary skills, and as they begin implementing the Edible concept at their new sister school – the New Orleans Charter Middle School.
Kudos again to everyone involved in the Edible Schoolyard project!