Starting from June 22nd to 26th, 2014 I took part in the Edible Schoolyard Academy training and enrichment program along with more than 90 other educators and coordinators across United State and other international participants. The program was tried and true around the Edible Schoolyard lessons, new ideas for community outreach programs, and wisdom garnered from almost 20 years of teaching in the garden and kitchen classroom in Berkeley.
The Edible Schoolyard (ESY Berkeley) is one of the organic garden and kitchen classrooms for urban public school students at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School. At ESYB, students participate in all aspects of growing, harvesting, and preparing nutritious and seasonal produce during the academic day and after-school classes. Students’ hands-on experiences in the kitchen and garden foster deeper appreciation of how the natural world sustains us and promotes the environmental and social well-being of the community.
Twenty years ago in the spring, an abandoned land adjacent to the school was designated as the garden site. Educators, chefs, and gardeners came together to share their vision of a garden where students would participate in hands-on learning. Seventeen years later, the acre of land is turned into a lush garden with seasonal vegetables, herbs, vines, berries, flowers, and fruit trees. MLK Middle School teachers and the garden staff work together to link garden experiences with students’ science and humanities lessons for truly integrated experiential learning.
The Edible Schoolyard kitchen is an experiential learning classroom where students accompany their science and humanities teachers to experience culture, history, language, chemistry, and geography through the preparation of food.
Students cook together with produce just harvested from the garden and eat a freshly prepared dish, sharing the fruits of their labor around a communal table. As they harvest, cook, and eat their way through the school year, students experience lessons that support academic learning in the classroom.
The Edible Schoolyard Berkeley engages the wider community of MLK Middle School by extending programming to evenings and weekends. Families participate in three Saturday workdays, helping to maintain the garden and sharing lunch together. Parents and families also participate in evening classes held in the kitchen classroom. These classes give students an opportunity to share lessons learned with their families and provide tools for families to cook fresh meals.