Why Can’t All Schools Do This?

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist February 19, 2012

Hands down, my favorite thing about my children’s school besides a quality learning environment is their organic horticulture class.

Not only do they learn about all aspects of organic gardening from prepping the soil to planting and composting, but they also help care for foraging goats and free ranging chickens.

The classes take turns collecting the eggs and the children even get to take them home to eat, which is no doubt quite the positive learning experience for any families that might regularly purchase conventional store eggs.

One week, my oldest child learned to fish with a net in the freshwater lake that borders the school campus.   He was taught to cast the net properly as well as detangle the fish he managed to catch.  He was so excited to tell me all about it in the car ride home that day and it was very cheering to hear his stories.

When it comes to planting, the children get to choose which seeds they wish to plant and care for.   Two of my children brought home beautiful bunches of lettuce when Fall harvest time rolled around.  We had fun determining which dishes would work best with the greens they proudly brought home.

To the right is the giant ginger plant grown and tended by my oldest.  I can’t wait until he brings it home and we can make some amazing homemade ginger ale with the roots!

My question is, why can’t all schools have a program like this?  It seems to me that teaching children to care for the land and learn how to produce their own food is as necessary and important a life skill as learning to read and write.

Just me.

While I’m sure my kids do not fully appreciate what they are learning in organic horticulture right now, I also feel quite sure that in the future, the memories of what they have learned will serve them well be it in the form of an easily pulled together backyard garden or possessing the know how to raise a few chickens to supply the family with quality eggs.

It gives me great peace of mind knowing that my kids already know so much more than I did at their age about producing their own food.

With the quality of processed foods continuing to decline and becoming ever more dangerous with each passing year with the unrelenting proliferation of GM foods and chemical additives of all kinds in our food, these types of community based skills will become increasingly more important in coming decades for simple maintenance of personal health, something today’s generations seem to take for granted.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

 

Comments (39)

  1. One reason why they don’t do it is because it teaches people to be self-reliant, which is exactly what the government doesn’t want, since there’s no money in it.

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  2. What a great school! We are moving to Florida and I hope we can find just an amazing school like yours. If not there is always homeschool. How cool for your kids!!!

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  3. Hey, that’s why we’re homeschooled! We have an organic horticulture class every time Mom takes the kids to the farmer’s market, or we visit the goats from which we get our milk, or whenever we go out into the garden and grab a snack! :D

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  4. Another added benefit to working in the school garden is that the children have time to quietly reflect on things that they have learned during the day. I don’t know why schools feel it is necessary to just keep cramming information into kid’s heads without letting them think through ideas. Hooray, for a school that sees the benefits of this!

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  5. This couldn’t possibly be a public school could it? You must have your kids in a private school right? If this is public then I will be so excited for the potential of the future of public schools. In my area it is going down hill rapidly with mismanagement and teachers losing jobs at record rates. We homeschool. My kids are doing their horticultural class rig now, they call it playing in the mud!

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  6. When my kids were in school, they did the standard “plant a seed in a styrofoam cup” thing. Can you see my eyes rolling? I mean, it’s a start but it by no means teaches them about soil or land or seasonal weather patterns or anything else, much less about goats and chickens and cows. Thank heavens we were able to teach them about that kind of thing because the schools think if it’s not in a book, the kids don’t need to know it. That’s our “modern” way of thinking.

    In our area of the country it’s too cold for most of the school year anyhow, unless they would make it a project of the entire school system and be provided a greenhouse, etc. THAT’S never going to happen. This city where I live just spent a half a million dollars each for three new gymnasiums, but they have no intention of spending a dime towards teaching kids about food or where it comes from or how it gets to the grocery stores – or why we shouldn’t eat the food in the stores for that matter (except the fresh produce). Nope. We have soccer fields and softball fields galore, which set unused for 9 months out of the year, we have gymnasiums that are empty and dark most of the time. I guess it all makes sense to someone. Education has become politics as usual.

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  7. Our public school is getting a garden underway this year. There are a couple of public schools in the area who’ve maintained successful gardens. We live in the Northeast. There won’t be a greenhouse, nor do the other schools that do this in the area have one. The aim is to grow crops that can be harvested while the kids are in school, i.e. greens for a spring harvest and winter squashes and root vegetables that won’t be harvested until fall of the next school year. It will depend on volunteers to water and weed over the summer, but it’s definitely doable!

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  8. While impressive and wonderful and personally matches my own feelings about the way things should be in all schools, some of the posted comments are disturbing. As a public school teacher for the last 11 years in Alaska, I can tell you that there is no government conspiracy that exists to brainwash children into believing that self reliance is bad, and there is no public school I know of that would turn down an opportunity to allow children to have this experience. There are many public schools in my area that do have gardens. And yes, we focus on academics because we HAVE to – remember, your public schools take ALL children – not just the privileged who have educated or financially stable parents who can either afford an alternative or have charters in the area. Public schools are mandated by a broken federal government system to improve and meet increasing targets every year. So when over half the children who walk through our doors are not prepared by their parents for school for various reasons, things like a weekly horticulture class aren’t really an option when research shows that students who are behind need twice the amount of instruction time to catch up.
    Believe me, I want what you describe for my own children and for all children. I even believe it is possible for all children, but there are some major things that would have to change to make that a reality.

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    • You know, I will be the first to admit that I am not in your world trying to educate underprivileged children, Sockeye1. But my impression as I read your comment was that gardens and other real life experiences are EXACTLY what those children need, certainly far more than double instruction time. You see, what we *privilieged* parents give our children is the opportunity to build connections to their world, not countless hours of instruction time before they get to school age! We introduce counting and reading skills naturally as we interact so that when it is time to sit down and do the actual learning, it is relatively painless; their minds are ready for it. It must be like taking hard, rocky ground that is not properly prepared and immediately planting to take those children and immediately immerse them in academics. I am sure it would be difficult to convince the *powers that be* to choose another course of action over their extensive research and education, but I continue to bet it would be exceedingly effective to give them a year or two of *real life experiences* before academics were the focus!!

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      • California Jennifer October 10, 2012 at 7:11 pm

        Great response Pat in TX. I couldn’t have put it better. We entered kindergarten this year and a common question from his teachers (he has two) is what preschool did he go to? He is at the top of his class and this has not an ounce to do with preschool (never attended) or anytime sitting doing worksheets or drills. This has to do with our hours of outside time playing, getting dirty and lots of work alongside mom and dad. Relating the task at hand to the common threads of life. Amazing how they learn the basics without the drills and worksheets and with a passion. He is our second and the story is the same. Sure, he is a generally bright kid but no more than another.
        Sockeye1 I get what your saying and I see how that has to be a very frustrating thing when kids come from homes that haven’t accurately prepared them. I really believe a little less time spent inside grinding the information into the brain and more outside time getting their hands dirty (growing a garden, collecting eggs, turning the compost pile) would actually allow these struggling kids to REALLY absorb the inside class lessons. I respect your argument but more class time no matter what the reports say isn’t what these kids need. A side-note being the healthy meal they picked may just be the only healthy thing they see/taste all day or week.
        Cheers!

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  9. Buy a 50 ft. roll of turkey wire 4 ft. high with 2″ x 4″ spacing. Cut it in three 15 ft. lengths with 2″ extra wire sticking out at one end to hook onto the other end. Bring the ends together to form a large cage about 4 ft. in diameter. Use the 2″ piece to hook the ends together from top to bottom. Now weave vertical blind slats in the fence wire horizontally all the way around from top to bottom to make a large basket. This 50 ft. roll will make you three baskets. Be sure you locate each basket on level ground. Fill each basket with leaves,any kind except pine needles, and keep adding leaves for at least 2 weeks as they settle. This is very, very important because the leaves will pack down like a sponge. At the end of 2 weeks put at least 6 inches of planting soil on top covering the entire surface over the leaves. You must plant now because the weight of the soil will press the leaves down further and it will be hard to plant reaching over the fence wire after it settles. It will continue to settle for about 2 to 6 weeks depending on the type of leaves and the amount of rain. It should stop settling at about a 3 ft. height or waist height, ideal for those using wheelchairs. After the soil has settled to this point cut the top 10 inches of the fence wire off leaving 2 inch pieces sticking up all the way around, about 90 pieces. Bend these down inside to avoid being cut by the sharp ends. Save the part you cut off for use later. In 2 to 3 years it will have settled to about 2 ft. or less. This is slow composting also known as anaerobic digestion. In the end you end up with good humus. When you are ready to start over just lift the wire cage off leaving a large cake of humus, set the cage in a new location, put the 10 inch piece back on top, fill it with leaves, keep adding leaves for 2 weeks, add 6 inches of soil and you’ve started all over again. Plant

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  10. @John: Thanks for the detailed instructions! Just to confirm … plant directly in the 6 inches of potting soil? This is a planting container, not just a composting container?

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  11. .. That’s why we teach gardening things at home. We love to grow things. I love all of the posts here. Yay to the homeschoolers! I am a big supporter.

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  12. Here in Australia veggie gardens in schools have become very popular the past few years. A well known chef here set up a kitchen garden foundation for schools. The foundation’s scheme is quite expensive to implement, but there are a certain number of government grants available each year. The great thing is, since this foundation was set up, many schools, both public & private have taken the initiative to set up veggie gardens on their own. Hopefully this “trend” will continue.

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  13. Not only do these lessons teach your children about their food shed and stewardship for the land, but they can also be used to teach “academic” subjects. I think all schools should include gardening and treat it as an integral part of the curriculum not as an “extra”. The gardening lessons provide a wonderful opportunity to reinforce lessons in math, history, language arts, etc.
    City Share\’s last post: For the love of gravy

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  14. What a fantastic experience for your children! My high school (in Vermont) had a large greenhouse and had horticulture courses, but I do not get the feeling that your children are in high school yet. What a fabulous experience for younger children, and such a great way to have growing food and taking pride in food-quality become second-nature. For me, the thought of having a small organic vegetable garden is overwhelming, despite the fact that my parents and my grandparents grew their own vegetables when weather permitted. I want an organic garden, but I was always too busy with traditional school work to pay much attention to what my parents or grandparents were doing out in the yard while I was typing away. I wish I had paid more attention!
    Nicole, The Non-Toxic Nurse\’s last post: Check Out the Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania

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  15. Levi Russell via Facebook February 20, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    There’s a lot of pseudo-scientific voodoo about genetically modified food. I’m not convinced it’s correct. Most schools are little prisons. You’re either lucky or wealthy.

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  16. Betsy Wieting Kunz via Facebook February 20, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Yes, what part of the country do you live in and what is the school? My kids go to a public school where they learn none of this but I’m glad I can teach it to my kids at home in my back yard.

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  17. Danielle Koalani LaBelle via Facebook February 20, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Wow amazing! What kind of school is this? I dont have children yet but most definitely will be sending them to an alternative school or home schooling.

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  18. I’m also curious about what type of school this is- a public school? Or private?

    Many of our area public charter schools are doing things like this with great results both for learning about gardening and connecting it to where our food comes from and more nutritious school meals.

    Unfortunately, in our district they are completely opposed for some strange reason- shutting down plans for school gardens that parents would take responsibility for, for fear of food allergies and attracting rodents :( Pretty far-fetched reasoning, IMO, esp. when parents are willing to do the work of making it happen and get the materials donated.

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  19. Christine Banford via Facebook February 20, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    My son’s school has an organic garden and the students compost. Each grade has a spot to plant their own seeds. Schools don’t have programs like these b/c these kinds of programs are not on the state standardized tests.

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  20. Roseann Ligenza-Fisher via Facebook February 20, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    We live in a rural area where we are surrounded by farms..and we have a farm too…We are raising our 8 year old grandson and his school teaches farming and planting vegetables, etc..

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  21. Christa Popoff Stefoni via Facebook February 21, 2012 at 12:34 am

    This is an ideal situation. I believe kids can learn so much from the patience it takes to grow plants, and then there are the facts that they do grow (impatient or not) and then they taste so great when they are fresh.

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  22. I’m glad the school is teaching students how to grow their own food. But where are the parents? I’ll never understand why people have given up gardens. Now we are expecting teh schools to do everything. So glad I homeschool.

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  23. I know this information comes a little late to this topic, but I watched this short vid today and wanted to share it with people. I know that just recently one of the foodie bloggers posted something about the school system of today vs homeschooling (or something like that) but I couldn’t find it so chose to post this here. John Stossel talks with Michelle Rhee, who is the former Supt. of Schools in WADC (I think that was her title). Explains a lot about why public schools are in a mess and how much progress we haven’t made in many areas regarding education.

    http://libertypenblog.blogspot.com/2012/03/video-john-stossel-government-schools.html

    Give it a minute to download. Good information here in about 8 minutes!

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  24. It sounds wonderful.
    It’s why we ditched life in Denver and moved to rural Idaho last year. And yes, we homeschool.
    Yes, I know not everyone can.
    I was a public school teacher for years and at least in Colorado I know one reason it wasn’t done was simply that most of the growing occurs in the summer.

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  25. Books that may be of interest:
    The Nature Principle, RIchard Louv (excellent writer — love this book!)
    Your Brain on Nature
    Last Child In The Woods, Richard Louv

    There’s lots of research now showing that children and adults who spend time in nature and working with nature are healthier in all ways… physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Gardens are just one way.

    Reply

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