It was everything I had imagined and more. That was my feeling after spending the day taping episode 108 at the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, California.
As a longtime fan of gardening with children, sustainable methods, healthy eating and education wrapped around horticulture, this place had the whole package. Our excitement for telling their story had been building for months. I, along with our entire GGW crew have known about the Edible Schoolyard for years. We share the same passion for what they’re all about. What they’ve accomplished in 15 years is nothing short of remarkable. They’re known around the world as one of the most successful schoolyard educational programs anywhere. And because of that, the media and tour requests they get every week to visit the garden is overwhelming. Yet in spite of their world renowned reputation, this is a still a public middle school, focused on providing a distraction-free environment for learning first and foremost, hence their need to limit the number of “outsiders” they allow in during school hours.
Accordingly, our GGW crew was both honored and thrilled to be enthusiastically welcomed to document the great work they are doing. To successfully wrap a major part of their academic curriculum around the thriving organic garden and the adjacent kitchen where meals are prepared with the bountiful harvests is a sight to behold! Everything runs like clockwork and so did our day of doing our best to capture the essence of this rare and memorable experience.
Seven hours; that’s all the time we had to cast our net over this ocean of activity and information. By 8:AM we were already into our first interview. With a backdrop Monet would be proud to call his own, the story began to unfold through the eloquent words of Director, Marsha Guerrero. Within ten minutes of starting, I had goose bumps. The Edible Schoolyard is like an A-List Movie Star combined with your most humble friend. Co-founded by famous restaurateur and neighbor to the middle school, Alice Waters, her vision of turning that land into productive space for the students to garden through experiential learning became a reality. Since then, no opportunity has been missed to expand on this vision.
The Edible Schoolyard kitchen is a perfect example. Although not part of the initial installation, Alice Waters always knew there would be a kitchen where the students could take their garden harvest, use it in recipes and experience the satisfaction, taste and nutrition of meals prepared from their bounty. Esther Cook is the longtime chef instructor that heads up this part of the program. The students were totally engaged in her lessons and so were we. By the time they left, the fresh eggs from the resident chicken coop and wheat grown on site became a homemade pasta dish that was enjoyed by all…well, not all. I never got a taste but Nathan says it was delicious!
As a father of a middle-schooler and one not far behind, I found myself wishing my daughters were students here and how incredible this program would be for every school to experience. Such an amazing opportunity for learning that both nurtures the mind and teaches life skills doesn’t come from a classroom with walls. It also doesn’t happen without a lot of dedication by local volunteers. But thanks to the staff at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School along with scores of parent and community volunteers, this program is a reality. Even better, their curriculum and formula is now well documented and their information is available to anyone who wants to start a similar program.
Thanks to everyone involved in this amazing program and kudos for creating and sustaining something so impactful. Our time with you will be a memory we will all cherish and we loved having the opportunity to experience your story firsthand and then share it with the rest of the country. If ever there was the perfect example for Growing a Greener World, the Edible Schoolyard is the gold standard.