Many city schools across America are cultivating a curriculum of hands-on horticulture, giving kids in urban areas a place to connect with nature and eat healthy.
Students are planting and harvesting these edible gardens with crops of vegetables, fruits, and flowers while learning about the environment, actively participating in their school gardens and kitchen classrooms.
The Edible Schoolyard Project was started in 1995 by restaurateur and food activist Alice Waters of Berkeley, California to connect educators around the world to build and share a K-12 edible education curriculum.
Fifteen years later, Edible Schoolyard NYC was established as the first northeastern affiliate of the program, with its own curriculum designed around the needs of New York City public schools. East Harlem, specifically, is a community with limited access to fresh produce—and some of NYC’s highest levels of poverty and obesity.
The recent unveiling of a rooftop garden and greenhouse at one of East Harlem’s schools marks what organizers hope to be the start of a “transformation of a school community, and the health of young New Yorkers.”
“Ultimately, we are working to build a culture of health,” said Kate Brashares, Executive Director of Edible Schoolyard NYC. “Through our hands-on garden and kitchen lessons, we aim to empower East Harlem students to grow and cook their own food, creating demand for fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Over in the NYC borough of Brooklyn, students as young as preschoolers gather eggs from resident chickens and help cook them as part of their kitchen classroom curriculum.
The trend isn’t just an east coast/west coast movement: Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School’s garden even houses a beehive, which provides honey for school economics projects, including a farm stand in the school office.
And, in Bozeman, Montana, Irving Elementary School’s edible schoolyard includes a fruit orchard, raised garden beds, and designs for a greenhouse are in the works.
These are just some examples of the nation’s hundreds of outdoor classrooms, teaching kids about growing their own food, healthy eating, and sustainable sourcing.
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