In the years of creating episodes for our national television series, Growing a Greener World on PBS, we’ve had the privilege of meeting and featuring some of the world’s most genuine heroes to tell their extraordinary stories.
Each is doing something incredible for people or the planet through organic gardening, healthy food, nurturing sustainable lifestyles and more.
Then along came Stephen Ritz, educator, creator, and founder of the Green Bronx Machine. It’s the term given to his one-of-a-kind incredible learning environment, originally started and still growing strong in the Bronx and now spreading out around the world.
Over the three days our crew was embedded in CS-55, the school where Stephen voluntarily spends most of his life (along with his wife Lizette and adult daughter Michaela), our unique perspective allowed witness to a man fully present in his life’s mission—to nurture his students with love and respect. It moved us to tears more than once as we savored every moment of joy and energy radiating from his students in response.
It only takes a moment after meeting Stephen to know that this is a man devoted to changing the lives of his students. Through passion, patience, and the power of a plant that produces real food (as in fresh fruits and vegetables), Stephen Ritz and his Green Bronx Machine are building healthy minds and bodies and empowering thousands of children to discover and exploit the potential they never knew they had.
Although this episode packs a lot into a 22-minute show, you can learn much more of the story behind it all. The Power of a Plant is the recently released book on the extraordinary journey of Stephen Ritz—indeed one of the world’s most genuine heroes and important role models of our time.
A personal note from Joe Lamp’l
To all of you who watched this episode to the very end, this one got me as you now know. After days of seeing so much love from students to teacher, and back again, it was a lot of emotion to keep bottled up. We made two separate trips to NY to finish this episode. After returning home from the first trip I truly was emotionally spent. Knowing I was going back for another round, just added to what was already still inside me.
I wish you could have seen what I saw and will never forget over those three days. This image I call “the hug” was just the tip of the iceberg on what I was able to experience. After witnessing many more scenes like this, I plan to give more hugs and hopefully get more hugs. While the “power of a plant” is truly an amazing thing, you still can’t replace the incredible power of a hug. Thankfully, Stephen Ritz is good with both.
Links to related information from this episode and post
The Power of a Plant – Stephen Ritz’s newly released book
The Green Bronx Machine blog post by Joe Lamp’l