As a faculty advisor to our middle-school's gardening club, it has been a joy to watch the genesis of this project "sprout." Over the past couple of months, I have had the fortune to work with several young people that have truly inspired me. A haphazard conversation that began during our advisory period and spilled over into our mathematics class, served as the impetus to begin doing this work. In short, a chat dealing with current events led us into an exploration about alternatives to our society's present structure. During this discussion we found ourselves talking about the role that our food supply plays in the broader realm of issues connected to social justice.
As is true with gardening and farming, project-based learning is subject to unpredictable variables. Sometimes these are beneficial and other times they are not. So far we have been the beneficiaries of some positive and serendipitous events. In the fall, our school's community partner, Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation (SASF) was the recipient of a grant from the Department of Youth and Community Development. This money was used to fund an enrichment and tutoring program for our students. As a result, the second session of this program incorporated an after-school gardening club. In addition to beginning the planting process, students engaged in research about genetically modified foods and other related matters. The club will take its work outdoors for the third and fourth sessions of this program.
Furthermore, we were recently contacted by a representative of GROWNYC which is an organization that aims to improve the lives of New York City residents through environmental education. This wonderful non-profit organization has undertaken the responsibility and cost of providing us with supplies and building the raised beds that we will use to garden. GROWNYC will collaborate with Solar One which is our city's first solar powered education center. As part of their mission to inspire people to lead environmentally responsible lives, Solar One has agreed to connect their curriculum to our school's sustainability and greening projects. Very few words can accurately describe our gratitude to all of these amazing partners!
Now, a word or two about our core gardeners. This group of young students has exhibited a rare concern and passion for our world. So far, as part of their work, they have conducted research, prepared Power Point presentations, engaged in public speaking and planted the first seeds for our garden. Moreover, they have reached out to the broader middle-school community in order to increase student participation in the club. They even had the opportunity to present their work to our school's Principal as part of their "sales pitch." Needless to say, they were successful.
These adolescents are serving as a reminder to all of us that the status quo is unsustainable and that new and exciting options do exist. With a little courage and an open mind all of us can help improve our school and the world. These small changes that they are attempting to enact have the capacity to propel our school and our local community to amazing new heights. In addition to naming our project the Pure Harvest Garden they call their committee "The Founding Mothers." They have succeeded in increasing the number of students that participate in our club and I am confident that the group will continue to grow along with our garden.
Two of the students' objectives are to utilize organic gardening processes and to harvest heirloom varieties. Our research has taught us that these two things can have a monumental impact on our world. Most people are pretty familiar with organic gardening and understand that these methods reduce the impact of our food habits on the planet. However, it is not common knowledge that the vast majority of seeds and produce that we purchase have been genetically modified. In addition, very few people know about the existence of heirloom varieties. In other words, we fail to understand that alternatives do exist. The mission of our gardening club is to provide a microscopic version of an alternative society. This community will strive to make decisions using a consensus based approach, produce healthy food for our own consumption while supporting businesses that engage in ethical practices. We also hope that our garden can help our school with some fund raising.
Finally, we'd like to thank our Principal, Ms. Pam Sabel for her support. After meeting with "The Founding Mothers", she agreed to let us continue "digging." We could not have reached this point without her help. I am positive that our garden and gardening work will produce future harvests that will justify her faith in us.
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