On Tuesday, March 27th Bonnie Odom-Brown and I, along with Sara Aldridge from the Greening of Detroit’s Garden Resource Program met with students of Nolan to launch the 2012 community garden at the school. Our purpose was to introduce the program to a new set of students and teachers and have them start plants from seeds.
Upon arriving at the school we met briefly with a very enthusiastic Bilal Tawwab, Nolan’s principal. Mr. Tawwab is completing his first year and you couldn’t help but be impressed by his attitude and desire to see this happen at the school. Based on my previous experiences, it was a good sign to have his support even at this early stage. It definitely showed that Bonnie had done well in building a solid relationship with this top administrator.
This year, just like last, we have been assigned to two teachers. Ms. Sharon Miller and Ms. Kimberly Bonk. Both are science teachers and I can’t help but say that I admire how they handle the challenges of teaching in today’s environment. With the threat of school closings throughout the district, their dedication to educate the youth of today cannot be overlooked. Teaching today is a lot different than when I went to this school. To be truthful it is a lot harder for everybody, but for some reason teachers, administrators and students are trying very hard to diminish their individual personal or professional challenges to collectively build an environment of learning and respect. In a small way, I believe that organizations like Be Culturally Exposed and Project Sweet Tomato make it just a little bit easier to accomplish that goal.
So on this day, we introduced the garden project to approximately 50 students and I was more than impressed by the way the kids embraced the program and actually got excited about the process of growing food and learning about the food they eat. “In case you don’t know, Bonnie told the classroom of kids, your food does not come from McDonald’s!” After capturing their attention with that remark, she told the kids what the program was all about. This year, unlike perhaps the previous year, we are trying to get more parents involved. There was a permission slip, for each kid that wanted to be in the program that needed to be read and signed by his or her parent(s). Bonnie has also limited the number of garden participants this year to 20 kids. A number that I believe will be easy to achieve. I hope that this year we have a more balanced mix of male and female students. Don’t get me wrong, last years students, though mostly female, worked very hard. But with so many strong and big young men in the classrooms we visited, it sure would be nice if we could entice them to join in all of the fun. We will have to wait and see, but the prospects are good that we will increase the number of male participants significantly.
After the introductions, we began to tell and teach the kids how to start a garden. It begins with “planting a seed” and every kid in the classroom embraced the concept like a duck takes to water. Bonnie assigned a seed and a container to each student and it will be their responsibility to nurture it along through the germination process. My assignment will be to check back at the school in about ten days to see how it ‘s going. One thing for sure, we will have plenty of tender shoots from a variety of plants to put into the garden beds.
Bonnie’s plan for this year’s garden is to grow a lot more things that the kids want to grow. So for starters the students are germinating seeds of…
- Giant Delicious Tomatoes
- Yellow Squash
It was a lot of fun to watch the kids take ownership of their seeds and potting them in their containers. I walked amongst them doling out the soil and couldn’t help but be amused as they asked questions about how to water them and nurture their growth. There was one girl in particular whose name I didn’t get, that really took charge. She could barely contain her excitement and was flitting around the room like a little butterfly (not the dreaded “cabbage looper”-type) making sure that everybody had a planting kit, they had put their name on and that each kit had received some water. I can’t wait to see her do her stuff when it comes to the actual planting of seeds and sets outdoors. If there ever was a person born to be the “teacher’s pet” it would be her. And we need more like her. She was cool and she knew it. Hopefully the garden will give her a chance to further develop and demonstrate her leadership capabilities. I believe we have a real star in the making!
There will also be more activities scheduled outside of the garden for the students participating in the garden. There will be “market days”, where the students will take the produce they have grown and sell them at area farmers markets. There will be visits to Eastern Market along with opportunities to network with other kids in the area. The corporate sponsor, Maura Ryan Kaiser of Snelling Staffing Services, is working with administrators to put on a “Career Day” at the school. Bonnie would like to have full slate of activities to ensure that the kids get as much out of this experience that they can. I would like to see if we could have things like canning classes and cooking demonstrations so that we can get more of the parents involved.
We all, Bonnie, Maura and I, believe that the more we do for the students, the school and the community, the better the response will be from these very same groups. This is not about throwing money at the problem for that would be too easy. And I don’t think that’s what they want us to do. They want to see and know that someone care’s enough about them and their environment to work with them to make their world a better place. Nothing can be more meaningful to them…more relevant to their existence, than knowing that someone or somebodies want them to be successful in this life. Hopefully, they will know that Bonnie Odom-Brown (Be Culturally Exposed), Maura Ryan-Kaiser (Snelling Staffing Services) and the supporters of my program, Project Sweet Tomato, care today, tomorrow and forever.
- Let it grow…. (simplymoderndance.com)
- Planting the Garden (mommyhatescooking.com)
- Organic garden grows into outdoor classroom (ocregister.com)
- Gardens and Greenhouse in Action (solutionaries.net)
- A Most Impressive Event: Nolan’s Career Day! (beculturallyexposed.wordpress.com)
- May 12, 2012…The Garden Starts Here! (beculturallyexposed.wordpress.com)
- Nolan’s “Fierce Gardeners” – The Year In Review Part One (beculturallyexposed.wordpress.com)