I visited the Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California in December, 2008. Here are photos and notes from that experience.
Funding and Vision
Affiliate program proves it can happen all over, not just in Berkeley with our resources and growing season.
Shared mission statement.
Broke ground in 1995, using one acre of municipal compost.
Garden is part of the science curriculum (6th. grade) and requires the support of administrators and teachers.
Garden Teacher, Assistant Garden Teacher, and Garden Manager.
AmeriCorp member, $5000 stipend for work.
Volunteer Program- 1 or 2 for each class.
Education happens in "place of working." Talk about it as it's happening, so knowledge is gained as events are happening.
There are 950 students in school, and 350 come through by having 11 garden and 11 kitchen classes per week.
Users include 7th. grade science, and 6th. grade science (gardening) and humanities (kitchen). (UPDATE: As of 2018, gardening happens for one trimester for sixth graders and kitchen happens for one trimester for sixth graders. These classes are not offered for other grade levels and are not available for longer than one trimester.)
The students come as a class from the classroom, then have an opening circle in the rotunda to provide structure for the day. They are introduced to the jobs for the day (i.e. seasonal garden tasks) on a white board and generally make their own decisions about where they would like to help (e.g. dig stump, plant bulbs, or direct sowing). Children do all the necessary garden jobs, which leads to ownership.
Groups then go about gathering the tools they'll need and doing the tasks with their teachers and garden staff. The classroom teacher either works on one project with a group or will float between all the groups.
A bell indicates clean-up time. The session completes with another visit to the rotunda to wrap up.
Garden classes are 90 minutes long.
Quantity vs. quality is a constant concern.
After-school programs provide continuity.
Sixth graders go to farms, community gardens, Zen Center, and talk with farmers from farmers' markets.
Beds are not really raised and their shapes change as the students make them themselves.
At the beginning, students are given real tools and shown how to use them properly. Students are responsible for cleaning their own tools before putting them away.
Tape indicates where each tool belongs.
Tool carts were custom fabricated.
The school is committed to allowing public use despite occasional disrespect.
Crazy mistakes are made even after 13 years.
Don't talk about philosophy, do it!
Even a little bit is successful.
Taking on what they can.
Test soil so that issue (i.e. lead contamination) can be talked through.
School gardening is counter-intuitive to actual gardening.
Much of the food gets donated to local organizations.
Teachers remind students the day before garden class to wear appropriate clothes. Aprons, boots, and gloves are provided.
Irrigation and Water Conservation
School district pays water bill, which is an unknown amount.
Drip system on areas that need the most water.
Revamping native beds, having to accept brownness in summer.
Planning for drought in summer.
Alameda County provided funding for two 3000 gallon tanks. The children are working with a teacher to remove brush and provide a level surface for the second large tank. The water will be used to irrigate the orchard downhill from the site.
Took 11 or 12 years to self-maintain fertility.
Open piles have worked the best, and are the least rodent-infested.
Allows one to see decomposition happening.
Compost and cover cropping.
Compost is the heart of the garden.
Rules about eating for health and safety:
Eat these things.
Otherwise ask an adult.
Other Ideas and Inspirations
Plantings organized at different times throughout year (i.e. broccoli), so crops are more frequently available.
Planter boxes on wheels with veggies in driveway.
Machined Boot Rack
Child-Created Raised Bed
Pairs of work gloves are made available for anyone who wants to use them.
Water Catchment System
Children develop a relationship with the chickens.
Tool Cleaning Area
Greenhouse was another not-so-perfect project.
Cultivating mushrooms. Mushroom spores are added to straw that has been boiled then hung from the tree.
Solar panel is not functional. It was designed to provide electricity to the pool of water but wasn't strong enough, so electricity was brought over from the nearest building.
At the beginning of their trimester in the kitchen, children write and share a food memory.
There has been an entrance and exit survey regarding food preferences.
In the third year of the three-year survey, they are beginning to answer the question, "Are we changing the way people think about food?"
Children learn about seasonality.
Beautiful presentation for eating.
Comparisons of types of food and prices:
Who has access to these markets?
Kitchen entry is ritualized. The chef teacher comes out to welcome the class, then students put their belongings into cubbies, then meet at the chef's table for a meeting about the methods to be used that day and answer questions. The room is further divided into cooking stations for groups. Each cooking station contains all materials and ingredients necessary and the day's recipe. The recipe is a guideline and allows for flexibility.
Let kids be chefs on their own.
A colander with food is presented at each cooking station.
Children decide together how much to use.
Groups have one teacher present at each activity (classroom teacher takes a table).
The teacher acts as a facilitator.
Sometimes ingredients are supplemented from outside sources, and sometimes never supplemented.
No collaboration with the school lunch program.
Neolithic Fruit Salad:
Mortar and pestle
Fresh cranberry sauce, dried cranberries, nuts, and other seasonal ingredients.
Use simple gadgets rather than complicated machinery.
Farm fresh choice.
Another meeting follows the cooking session.
Trips to Richmond landfill.
Paint canvas bags for less waste.
Picnic blankets or tables?
Cards for clean-up tasks.
Lesson plan by Heather Taylor, firstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to share all materials with credit to her.