The Culivated Classroom
Last month I had the great pleasure to visit the Gregory-Lincoln Education Center in Houston, Texas. It’s pre-K to grade 8 school at the edge of the downtown core. No, it was not a dying urge to see the inside of a school believe me, I spend plenty of time inside the schools of my own children. I was surfing the internet to find gardening programs that have been successful in educating kids to live more healthy by changing the way they eat. I came across Gregory Lincoln’s Cultivated Classroom. Curious on how their program got started, I contacted the teacher spearheading this program and had the good fortunate to meet with her, get a tour of the school garden and orchard and help the kids in culinary class to make dumplings with fresh ingredients from their own garden.
What an inspiration! Concerned with prevalence of childhood obesity and related illnesses, the school set out to change how the students think about and consume food. Starting two years ago with 14 garden beds and a school fruit tree orchard, the program has now added 4 more garden beds and is hoping to get their own chickens next year. As two of the grade 6 culinary class students toured me through the gardens, amidst describing to me how they had dug trenches to install irrigation lines in the orchard and grow all sorts of vegetables that they had never tried in their lives (as their parents and grandparents don’t eat vegetables or fruit according to my tour guides) it occurred to me that these young people actually got it! No preaching, no big words that they had committed to memory but didn’t understand – this was really about changing the way that they eat and this program was doing that. Right out of the mouths of babes.
Located right at the front entrance of the school, the gardens had never been vandalized and when the singular incident where some of the produce had been taken by some nighttime visitors, the kids shrugged it off as “they must have needed food”. The weekend prior to my visit, the school had participated in a Kids Farmers Market. It was a whole school effort where the kids used their skills in language arts, math, art, culinary, science and charming salesmanship for marketing, pricing, harvesting, cleaning & packaging and last of all, selling their produce. The money earned is used to cover some of the costs for their garden program. Wow, a real life experience that is making real change in kids’ lives and the lives of their family. Could you ask for anything more?