I know it’s almost Mother’s Day, but this article from Nashoba Publishing (NP) about schools growing their own food got me thinking about kids: specifically, the lucky tykes who get to participate in Cambridge’s CitySprouts program.
CitySprouts is a nonprofit organization that works with twelve public schools in Cambridge to create learning gardens in schoolyards and support teachers’ use of the gardens as a direct extension of their classroom teaching. In short, CitySprouts doesn’t just make the schoolyards pretty–they make sure the kids are learning topics that are part of Massachusetts Science Frameworks.
I visited several CitySprouts gardens when I was researching Boston Gardens & Green Spaces, and I was very impressed. There were alphabetical gardens with plants starting with each letter of the alphabet (X is for xanthorrhiza!); Latin American gardens with corn, beans, potatoes, and chiles; rain gauges and wind gauges: butterfly gardens for observing insects’ life cycles; and children gathered hungrily around an electric where a volunteer teacher was cooking Swiss chard that the kids had grown themselves. By gum, they were cheerful places.
There are limits to what CitySprouts can do compared to Nashoba Valley schools, simply due to lack of space. For example, they can’t possibly grow enough food to serve in the cafeteria, according to the NP article, but they can offer the fruits of their labor to kids who work in the gardens and at special events. Still, even that much exposure to fresh produce is more than many kids get; “You are introducing kids who’ve never tasted broccoli and greens to these foods,” said CitySprouts founder Jane Hirschi, as quoted in the NP piece.
But you don’t have to take my word for it; you can go visit CitySprouts yourself! The school gardens have visiting hours every week. I’m partial to the Morse School, which has flowers and CORN in late summer– but all the gardens are exciting places. They may be small, but they’re full of life.