Edible Schoolyard: A universal idea, by Alice Waters

My Copy: 9780811862806 (image from amazon.com)

I’d set this in my to-read stack quite a while ago, and it was a tough book to find the first time I went looking for it (I’d grabbed pretty much anything written by or about Alice Waters that week). But this is a pretty good book for pre-teens on up, a true story about trying to make improvements and finding that education comes about in many different ways, for adults and kids alike.

Edible Schoolyard is a story that takes place at a middle school in Berkeley, CA, not far from Alice Water’s famous restaurant. The years hadn’t been kind to this school, and the money wasn’t there to make necessary changes and the like to improve the structures and make things safer and more pleasant for the kids. After an interview about the neighborhood and things that needed improvement, the principal of the school reached out to Ms. Waters and asked what she thought they could do about it. And so began a journey with some hopeful, determined adults and kids that grew more eager each day to learn… and it all revolved around gardening and food, things some folks didn’t think had much place in school, if any.

In a perfect world, this Edible Schoolyard idea would be in every damned school in this country. I think it would be fantastic, and certainly help with health problems for kids everywhere. Too many go to bed hungry or have to rely on nutritionally crappy school lunches to get a “regular meal” in the day as childhood poverty only rises each year. I couldn’t help smiling the farther I went in this book, more and more impressed by what was going on.

What’s so great about it is the kids were doing most of the work. The teachers were teaching, but left the kids to do what was needed for classes and do some exploring and learning. And as it developed, they took more pride in it and it continued to grow, inspiring the next group of kids who came along to do more. People complain that kids never do anything. Well, this book has some great examples of what kids can do if people would let them explore and make things with their own hands without fear that they’ll be disappointed in the results and need adults to step in and do it for them correctly.

This book would be great to show to any pre-teen and up who thinks kids can’t do anything, because this thin book is full of the types of things kids did, and how it grew.

I’m keeping this one to refer back to when things are lousy and I need an inspirational pick-me-up. The last third of the book is mostly pictures (it’s less than 100 pages total, anyway), and it’s neat to see the kids at work just giving it all a shot. It gives me hope, and definitely the hope that other schools and districts will get into this over time.

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