Now that I’m retired from classroom teaching at Touchstone Community School in Grafton, Mass., I tutor students in reading, writing, and math and volunteer at the school as the coordinator of a vegetable and flower garden project I started there.
At the end of the garden’s first year, with the help of parent volunteers, a gift from a Touchstone family, and some grant funding, we enlarged the growing area of the garden and put up a passive solar greenhouse. After the second year of the garden’s life, Touchstone teachers decided to integrate both garden and greenhouse activities into the school’s science program. Students have taken charge of different seasonal tasks: seeds and planting and harvesting and cooking for younger children, soil and compost and weeding and watering for older. Classes take turns preparing and eating the food we grow at school, including salads of greens grown in the greenhouse in the colder months. Since the garden came into the life of the school, many people have noted a feeling of anticipation, excitement, and a sense of shared effort throughout the community as a whole that is positive and pervasive. Parents report that their children come home and insist that a garden must be started at their house.
Participating in the work of the Commonwealth Corps is an exciting opportunity to put the ideas I’ve been working on at my school into practice in larger realms of a truly critical need ranging from hunger at the city and state level to food security on a global scale. In our country today children are less likely to have the experience of gardening or growing food at home with their families than in earlier decades. I and many, many others believe that learning how to garden at school should be a part of all children’s educational programs. Starting with the youngest students, we can teach children about how things grow, to be acquainted with a variety of vegetables, tell one from another, and understand the importance of good nutrition to healthy growth and development. A school garden demonstrates to children that it’s possible to grow food right where you live.
The call to buy food grown close to home and “eat locally” is becoming steadily louder in today’s world. A sustainable lifestyle requires that we relearn how to grow food close to home, including in our back yards. A garden at school can serve as a model for the whole school community. Little by little, one school garden at a time, we can send children home with the knowledge that a small home garden can provide nutritious food for families. In the larger scheme of things, it’s a proven way to ensure food security in our country.