This Week's Podcast: A Replay: Get Dirty — Get Smart, with Meredith Hill
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Our guest today is Meredith Hill who was a founding teacher at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science, and Engineering in South Harlem, where she has taught 6th grade English for the past seven years. Meredith has started gardening projects with kids, and even had them raising chickens in the classroom. She wrote an article about her experiences and in support of school horticulture and agriculture in a recent edition of Organic Gardening magazine called “Why School Gardens Matter.”
Meredith grew up in a rural area of Massachusetts, and says she was shocked to discover students’ phobia of nature. When they went to the park, she sat on the grass and kids told her, “We can’t sit on the floor! We’ll get dirty! And there are bugs!”
“How, I wondered, can we raise these students to be future leaders of a world thirsting for advances in environmental sustainability when they’d choose their iPods over fresh air any day,” she asked?
Ten years ago, school gardens were a rarity, although they existed. Today, with the interest in locally sourced edibles, the environment and especially worries over the disconnect between children and the outdoors, more and more schools are incorporating food-growing into the curriculum.
She wrote, “The true value of a school garden lies in its ability to be used as a classroom where regular school subjects intertwine with real-world experience, where even standards-based learning organically grows. Measuring and angles jump out of math class and into activities to design and build raised beds and low tunnels. The science of decomposition is gleaned from our expanding compost project, first through a series of classroom worm bins, now an effort to collect and weigh all compostable lunch scraps for garden composting.
Skills from leadership and teamwork to community engagement and activism grow in the garden, too. Here, social dynamics don’t need to matter and students collaborate across grades, frequently joined by a dedicated network of families, friends, and community members. The more students play a central role in garden planning, the more they see the garden as a space for them; a space to let their imaginations free, to make discoveries, to grow.”
Meredith has set up a curriculum with the Rodale Institute for teachers and people interested in starting school projects – Dig, Plant, Grow.