Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Edible Schoolyard

There was a little bit of shoving in the Highlands produce garden early last Friday morning, jockeying for position. Maybe a little hoarding.  The kids worked it out between themselves before it came to fisticuffs, the older, stronger, faster ones deciding to share with the more timid.

I hid my laughter, my delight, my surprise behind my second venti cup of not-local, not-organic coffee of the morning. All the commotion?

It was about the peas.

The spinach and lettuce were easier to come by, sitting ducks, easy targets. But the peas were more primal, hiding in their wild curly tendrils. The peas needed to be stalked. And the kids pounced when they saw one.

I spent a lot of time in this garden last summer and this past fall, helping to get it established. I wanted to be a part of the project, because my oldest son is allergic to peanuts and soybeans, and I am seriously worried sick about our industrial food production system.

You can watch our garden grow here. Notice the knee-high sea of weeds in one of the photos? We installed the garden beds last summer, then planned to wait for the students and teachers to arrive for planting in the fall. Big mistake. We decided not to let that happen again this summer, so a couple of us moms are hanging out on Friday mornings with a group of students who are eager to tend to our outdoor learning spaces—not only the produce garden, but our rain garden and our new butterfly garden as well.

I could tell you all about why Bloomington Public Health and the Statewide Health Improvement Program granted us the $5,000 to get the garden started. I could go on and on about a complex and a growing movement to reconnect children and nature, and about how many Highlands teachers are at the cutting edge of this movement, making all kinds of meaningful curriculum connections for students in this garden.

But really, all you need to know is that I watched as  kids scrambled over each other to pick the peas that they themselves planted this spring. I watched their joyful, greedy need to rip those pea pods open and eat them up, unable to wait for the 10:30 snack break. I watched them throw their pods into the compost bin, along with the weeds they were pulling. And I was hopeful. 

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