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The Edible Schoolyard


TAPrice
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Alice Waters started the Edible Schoolyard at Berkeley's Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in the 1990s. The school is a short walk from Chez Panisse. The garden and teaching kitchen has become an integral part of the school's curriculum. Students learn about ecology and nutrition, but the garden is also integrated into lesson on other subject, like history or science.

Schools across the country have adopted aspects of the Edible Schoolyard, but until last year there had never been an expansion of the original program. After Katrina in New Orleans, when the local school system collapsed from a combination of decades of bad management and damage from the flood, the Edible Schoolyard and the Chez Panisse Foundation began working closely with the Samuel J. Green Charter School to recreate the Edible Schoolyard in New Orleans. I wrote about this project for the local city magazine back in January [pdf]. Over the summer, there has been some planting and students will return to a greener campus than the one they left in the spring.

Recently, I was in the bay area and had a chance to visit the Edible Schoolyard. Marsha Guerrero, director of special projects at the Chez Panisse Foundation, was kind enough to give me a tour. The students weren't back yet, unfortunately, but I hope these photos still give you a sense of the project.

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The Martin Luther King Middle School

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The one-acre garden is tucked in behind the school. Originally, the garden area was concrete.

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The students paint all the signs.

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There are chickens at the Edible Schoolyard. I'm pretty sure that they don't eat the chickens, but I'm not certain of that.

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Extra signs.

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Tools for the garden.

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The garden also has lots of flowers. The students sit down to eat with the teachers, and the table is always set with flower.

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The outdoor oven.

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The outdoor classroom. Students gather here to get their lesson, and then they break off into smaller groups to work in the garden.

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The kitchen classroom.

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The students gather at the center table to learn about the dish, and then divide into three groups to cook. The classroom is fully loaded with kitchen equipment (not pictured).

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Aprons for the kids.

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The philosophy of Alice Waters, posted outside the kitchen classroom.

Edited by TAPrice (log)

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Wonderful pictorial--thanks! An Edible Schoolyard was set up on The Mall in Washington, D.C. during a Smithsonian Folklife Festival a few summers ago, but it's interesting to see a more comprehensive series of photographs of the Ur-garden.

I look forward to reading your article--what a great contribution to New Orleans! Kitchen classrooms are something we need in schools for younger children even in areas where the growing season is short and location of the school not conducive to maintaining an on-site garden. Real kitchens instead of heating stations next to dining rooms, too!

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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What a wonderfull program, I wish all schools would adopt this into the regular schedule of classes. This may be the only way that some children can learn that food comes from something other than cans and freezers, a valuable lesson. A great lesson in patience and rewards. Thank you Todd, for this pictorial.

Brenda

I whistfully mentioned how I missed sushi. Truly horrified, she told me "you city folk eat the strangest things!", and offered me a freshly fried chitterling!

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Pontormo: The article on New Orleans' edible schoolyard was actually published last January. There was a small pdf link hidden in the post above, but here it is again:

New Orleans Magazine: Feature on the Edible Schoolyard

I spoke with the program director for the New Orleans program a few weeks ago. She said that garden is looking good. I'll try to get over there soon and post a similar tour of the New Orleans garden. It will take years, obviously, for it to become as lush and mature as the Berkeley original.

I should also mention that the New Orleans project has been heavily supported by the Ruth Fertel foundation (the late Ruth Fertel founded Ruth's Chris; her son, Randy Fertel, cornered Alice Waters at a cocktail paper for the Nation in New York and convinced her to get involved), Market Umbrella (which runs the local Crescent City Farmers Market), Slow Food New Orleans and the Emeril Lagasse Foundation.

In this article in the Nation, Randy Fertel talks more about the two projects:

And it works. According to a study by Harvard Medical School, after only one year students at King demonstrated improved behavior, fewer emotional problems, higher grade-point averages and a better grasp of ecology.

The Edible Schoolyard, Waters says, "teaches children their moral obligation to be caretakers and stewards of the finite resources of our planet. And it teaches them the joy of the table, the pleasures of real work and the meaning of community.

....

Surely, post-Katrina New Orleans is sorely in need of the real, the authentic and the lasting. Like everything else in the city, our renowned and unique indigenous food culture is in jeopardy. That's why the curriculum includes an oral history component. Students learn local classics like red beans and rice and gumbo, grow some of the ingredients themselves and interview their parents about how they cook these dishes and how their parents cooked them. "We hope to renew New Orleans one okra plant and one child at a time," says Green principal Tony Recasner.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Awesome pics Todd. Thanks for posting them! Great article.

... I just talked with Todd and he suggested that I post the edible schoolyard videos that i've completed so far. I'm not an active self promoter, but with a little nudge....

The Edible Schoolyard in New Orleans:

The Citrus Tasting @ ESY New Orleans:

Alice Waters started the Edible Schoolyard at Berkeley's Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in the 1990s. The school is a short walk from Chez Panisse. The garden and teaching kitchen has become an integral part of the school's curriculum. Students learn about ecology and nutrition, but the garden is also integrated into lesson on other subject, like history or science.

Schools across the country have adopted aspects of the Edible Schoolyard, but until last year there had never been an expansion of the original program. After Katrina in New Orleans, when the local school system collapsed from a combination of decades of bad management and damage from the flood, the Edible Schoolyard and the Chez Panisse Foundation began working closely with the Samuel J. Green Charter School to recreate the Edible Schoolyard in New Orleans. I wrote about this project for the local city magazine back in January [pdf]. Over the summer, there has been some planting and students will return to a greener campus than the one they left in the spring.

Edited by LineDog (log)
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Fascinating stuff. It makes me want a whole lot more land at my school than I have!

I should also admit that I was surprised to see the "Philosophy of Alice Waters" broadside, as it seems inappropriately hagiographic for a school setting. Wouldn't it be more engaging for the kids to develop their own philosophy?

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I should also admit that I was surprised to see the "Philosophy of Alice Waters" broadside, as it seems inappropriately hagiographic for a school setting. Wouldn't it be more engaging for the kids to develop their own philosophy?

I wondered about that as well. I'm not sure how the philosophy is used in teaching. I also don't know if they New Orleans school has a similar philosophy. I'll check when I visit.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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I certainly didn't see it as 'hagiographic'. Good lord, it's not like they had some sort of shrine set up.

Considering that Alice Waters spearheaded/developed the concept of "The Edible Schoolyard" and is currently president of its Board of Directors, it doesn't seem inappropriate at all to me.

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It does to me. School walls are rarely festooned with broadsides devoted to founders, board chairs, or anyone else. John Dewey, the founder of the US educational system, might get a pithy sentence here or there, but not part of a wall that might hold, say, children's art work, writing, or recipes.

There's no doubt that she's a very well-intentioned and community-minded chef/activist, and I agree with most of this "philosophy." (Seems more like a list of aphorisms to me, I should add.) But whatever her intent or reputation, that painting seems to me to be an exercise in aggrandizement, not education.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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It does to me. School walls are rarely festooned with broadsides devoted to founders, board chairs, or anyone else. John Dewey, the founder of the US educational system, might get a pithy sentence here or there, but not part of a wall that might hold, say, children's art work, writing, or recipes.

There's no doubt that she's a very well-intentioned and community-minded chef/activist, and I agree with most of this "philosophy." (Seems more like a list of aphorisms to me, I should add.) But whatever her intent or reputation, that painting seems to me to be an exercise in aggrandizement, not education.

Could it be a work done by a child that features her "philosophy"?

Thanks for the motivation to go dig in the dirt with the kids!

Bridget Avila

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It does to me. School walls are rarely festooned with broadsides devoted to founders, board chairs, or anyone else.

Maybe it's a cultural difference. I don't see much difference between that poster and a poster of Maria Montessori sayings in a Montessori school or Rudolf Steiner quotes in a Waldorf school.

Such statements of philosophy are not at all unusual in private schools in Canada and, although the Berkeley school is public, the Edible Schoolyard is not. Its staff are not school employees.

From my perspective, a statement of philosophy is a key part of the Edible Schoolyard curriculum.

Edited by Jensen (log)
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Maybe it's a cultural difference. I don't see much difference between that poster and a poster of Maria Montessori sayings in a Montessori school or Rudolf Steiner quotes in a Waldorf school.

Such statements of philosophy are not at all unusual in private schools in Canada and, although the Berkeley school is public, the Edible Schoolyard is not. Its staff are not school employees.

From my perspective, a statement of philosophy is a key part of the Edible Schoolyard curriculum.

I agree completely, besides - what is there to object to? The woman started the program and her philosophy is entirely reasonable - eat real food, share it with your friends and family...

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Maybe it's a cultural difference. I don't see much difference between that poster and a poster of Maria Montessori sayings in a Montessori school or Rudolf Steiner quotes in a Waldorf school.

Such statements of philosophy are not at all unusual in private schools in Canada and, although the Berkeley school is public, the Edible Schoolyard is not. Its staff are not school employees.

From my perspective, a statement of philosophy is a key part of the Edible Schoolyard curriculum.

I agree completely, besides - what is there to object to? The woman started the program and her philosophy is entirely reasonable - eat real food, share it with your friends and family...

Jensen: It's interesting that you should bring up the Montessori schools. I believe that Waters trained at a Montessori school, so that approach may just reflect her training.

Melkor: I'm with you. Personally, I tend to not like grand statements like that. But I know from reading and talking to people here in New Orleans about the Edible School Yard that it works on many levels. Also, I ate at Chez Panisse and had one of the most satisfying meals of my life. Whatever she does, it works. I will always bow to people who actually get things done, and Waters has done that in spades.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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  • 2 months later...

Last month, I stopped by the New Orleans Edible Schoolyard to see the progress. As luck would have it, I was there during a farmers visit. Farmers and other producers come by the school about once a month to teach the kids about their works.

First, some quick background. Although many schools have used Waters' Edible Schoolyard as a model, the Berkeley program has never tried to replicate itself elsewhere. After Katrina, though, Randy Fertel, son of Ruth's Chris founder Ruth Fertel, cornered Waters at a party in New York sponsored by the Nation. Waters agreed to work directly with the New Orleans school to create a second Edible Schoolyard.

The Edible Schoolyard is hosted by the Samuel J. Green K-8 Charter school. It's founder, Tony Recasner, created the first charter school in New Orleans. The public education system in New Orleans collapsed long before Katrina. The state took over most of the local schools after the storm and the city currently has the highest percentage of charters in the nation.

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From the beginning, the school has tried to fill the location with plants, both ornamental and edible.

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The ugly fences will soon be covered with flowers.

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Ben Burkett was one of the guest growers. His family has been growing food in Mississippi and selling it in New Orleans since at least 1886.

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The kids were full of smart questions. One asked if you can grow watermelons from the seeds in each slice (nope, you can't). A bee keeper visited another class, but he was shy so I didn't take photos.

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The watermelon tasting was held off of this area. Last time I visited, this was just a pavement slab. Now it has pavers and areas where trees will soon be planted. The space where the kids were sitting will also have more shade once it's covered in vines. (Notice the small radio? They were playing jazz for the kids, because this is New Orleans.)

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Mischa Byruck is pictured here. He was recently hired by Market Umbrella, the group that runs our main farmers markets, as a forager. The trellis above him will eventually be covered in vines. Off to the far right is where the outdoor class will be. Weather conditions in New Orleans are harsher than in Berkeley (more heat, more rain), so the classroom won't be as open as the one in California. The group Engineers Without Borders is creating the classroom and Emeril Lagasse's foundation is funding most of the construction.

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Even the playground has plants. (The astroturf football field in the background was donated by the Saints and the NFL.)

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This green mural will eventually be windows of the teaching kitchen.

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The garden is young compared to the one in Berkeley, but things grow quickly in New Orleans.

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They hope to have the outdoor classroom complete for the spring semester. I promise to check in and report on the progress.

Edited by TAPrice (log)

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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