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Well, I've found a frontrunner for "The Stupidest Article of the Decade" award. Oh, I'm sure it won't win overall because we've got most of 10 years to go and lots of rightwing publications all competing for the title, but allow me to share with you the stupid article that was published in The Atlantic this week...

It's a piece slamming school gardens and Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard specifically. They begin by painting a picture of a migrant laborer coming to the U.S. to give their child a better life, enrolling them in a wonderful American school, only to have the kid waste his or her school day picking vegetables. They go on to say:

The cruel trick has been pulled on this benighted child by an agglomeration of foodies and educational reformers who are propelled by a vacuous if well-meaning ideology that is responsible for robbing an increasing number of American schoolchildren of hours they might other wise have spent reading important books or learning higher math (attaining the cultural achievements, in other words, that have lifted uncounted generations of human beings out of the desperate daily scrabble to wrest sustenance from dirt).

I'm sorry but you cannot get it any more wrong than that. I've been gardening with my boyfriend's kids for a few months now and the amount of science (not to mention language, history, and math) they have learned from our adventures in the garden is unbelievable. The potential for future learning is even more incredible. Here's just a little taste of what we've discussed:

  • The nitrogen cycle: We talked about how plants all need nitrogen, and the air is full of nitrogen, but most plants cannot use the nitrogen in the air. However, there are some special plants that CAN put it into the soil (beans, clovers, peas), so we plant those. We also rotate our crops so that our nitrogen-fixing plants put nitrogen in the soil all over the yard. We haven't discussed the role microorganisms play in this yet, but we'll get there. I'd like to talk about the role our compost plays in providing nitrogen to our plants.

  • Taxonomy: We've got a worm bin, so that was a good time to explain to our older daughter the big difference between people and worms. We have a backbone and they do not. We talked about how these are the two major groupings of animals, and how vertebrates include mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. We've also looked at fungi in our worm bin, and I explained that fungi are not plants OR animals - they are their own thing.

    On a more specific level, we look at how certain plants are related and then we plant them together. We have one patch for cruciferous veggies, and another one for garlic and onions, and a third for squash. At some point we'll plant squash and melon together and then talk about how they are all related. I'm also waiting to pick a rosehip from our rose bush to show her that they look similar to apples because they are related.

  • Reproduction: This is a major concept for our little one, who is just now understanding that plants grow from seeds and plants make seeds. Our older daughter is more advanced, so we looked at all of the various stages of fruit formation on our lemon tree, watching the flowers form and then turn into fruit. We also looked at worm eggs and talked about how each worm is both boy and girl. Neither kid is hip to how humans reproduce yet, so there's a limit on what we can discuss, but I definitely try to point out what I can to them when we notice things in our garden. I'd really like to tell our older daughter how bees and fungi (mushrooms specifically) reproduce. I think bees in particular are fascinating. And we might get a fig tree, which brings in the wonderful story of the fig wasp.

  • The Food Web: This is kind of a big one for our youngest daughter. I explained to her that spiders eat bugs, and our cats can eat spiders. If we get chickens, the chickens will eat bugs and worms and spiders too. I want to teach her the song "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly" to drive this concept home. We also talk about how we grow food in the garden so we can pick it and eat it. For our older daughter, I want to explain more about soil organisms at some point.

  • The Energy Cycle & Photosynthesis: A very related concept is how all energy comes from the sun. With the little one, we discuss how plants drink water and eat sunshine. I tried to explain how plants breathe in CO2 and use that and sunshine to make food and then exhale oxygen (which we breathe). Then, of course, we eat plants (or animals that ate plants, or animals that ate animals that ate plants). And everything decomposes because our worms and bacteria and fungi eat it. Then we put the compost in the garden to make more plants for us to eat!

  • Fermentation: We've made yogurt already and we're going to make sauerkraut. When we do this, we talk about how there are organisms who are doing the work for us to make our food.

  • Genetics and Evolution: We haven't gotten here yet but at some point we'll talk about why there is variation among the different foods (how come carrots can come in purple, red, and yellow in addition to orange?) and how each plant got to be the way that it is today (i.e. evolution and domestication/breeding by humans).

  • History: When we were weeding the garden the other day we talked about how hard it was and discussed how for most of history, people had to do this or else they couldn't eat. They didn't have a store to go to. I also want to talk about how lucky we are that we have water available for our plants because for much of history, if it didn't rain then people didn't have water.

  • Math: We're now maintaining two graphs. One shows how many days it takes each plant to germinate. The other one shows the growth of our pea plants. I've put lines on the graph showing the height of each family member, so we can see how the pea plants' height compares to ours. Additionally, I have her measure things and do simple calculations (how many 1/4 cups of flour do you need to make 1 cup?) when we cook.

  • Language: Both kids are learning tons of new terminology related to gardening. Additionally, our older daughter is helping me maintain a notebook where we write down everything that happens in our garden. That gives her practice writing (and using and spelling her new vocabulary words). I'd like to have her write up a blog post about her worm bin too. She's also got a standing weekly school assignment to write a story that is at least 5 sentences long, so I am going to have her write about the garden for that. I also have her read things like recipes when we cook.

  • Health: Of course we talk about the health of the food we are growing and why it is so good for us. Our little one talks with me about the colors of the food and how you should eat food of all different colors.

  • Fine Motor Skills: This is really for our little one specifically, but she's still developing fine motor skills and working in the garden is a great place to practice (handling small seeds or picking small weeds or using tools, etc).

These are all things I remember learning in school, but you almost need to see them to really understand them. And it's much more fun to do your learning in a hands-on way than at a desk.

This piece is crossposted from my blog. The kids and I have decided to pretend we have a farm, which we have named Flower Power Farm. We've painted birdhouses to put outside, and we gathered pine cones and covered them with peanut butter and sunflower seeds to serve as birdfeeders. Hopefully we'll get a few chickens too. And I want to get a milkweed plant to attract some butterflies. You can see all of my posts about Flower Power Farm here:
Prequel: The Girl Scouts Visit the Nursery and Make a Worm Bin
Part 1: Preparing the soil and planting the carrot seeds
Part 2: Preparing the soil for peas and cruciferous veggies (and some philosophical musings on gardening)
Part 3: Enter the Pests
Part 4: The Carrots Sprouted!
Part 5: Gardening with the Kids
Part 6: The Peas Sprouted!
Part 7: The Cabbage Sprouted!

I've also been chronicling our efforts to get chickens here:
Part 1: Initial Planning for Chickens
Part 2: Oops, it's not legal
Part 3: My public comment at City Council
Part 4: My letter to the city
Part 5: Bad News
Part 6: City Council Tables the Issue
Part 7: We Made the Local Paper!
Part 8: The San Diego Paper's Anti-Chicken Editorial
Part 8: San Diego Response to the Union-Tribune
Part 9: The Union Trib Prints Our Pro-Chicken Letters

And here is a list of kids books about gardening, food, and sustainability.

Originally posted to Jill Richardson on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 07:36 PM PST.

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    I wrote a book! You should buy it!

    by Jill Richardson on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 07:36:19 PM PST

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      Remembering George Michael, Dec. 25th - A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

      by JekyllnHyde on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 07:56:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ooh, good idea! (35+ / 0-)

        I'll run with your idea and recommend Jill's book to my Environmental Science students as an extra credit or research assignment.  They're already watching Food, Inc., this semester.

        "The party of ideas has become the party of Beavis and Butthead." ~ Paul Krugman.

        by Neon Vincent on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:28:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  With all due respect (13+ / 0-)

          Your boyfriend's kids aren't the at-risk youth that the author of the Atlantic piece is worried about. Your boyfriend's kids have at least one adult in their lives who's capable of writing a book. That gives them quite a leg up on a lot of kids. You have both the skills and the inclination to make sure your kids (not literally yours in this case) don't fall through the cracks. Not all kids do.

          I don't doubt that Edible Schoolyards are great for your kids, or even that they're fun for all kids. The question is whether more fun at school will translate into lower dropout rates for those kids who weren't finishing under the status quo ante.

          A cynic might argue that this emphasis on gardening and so forth makes school more absorbing for those kids who were going to do well anyway (and whose parents, not coincidentally, are more likely to be involved in school board issues), while hanging the at-risk kids out to dry. Can we really afford snazzy initiatives like this if they don't do anything to address the glaring inequities in graduation rates between white kids and Hispanic kids?

          Maybe we can, I don't know. Or maybe there's nothing that can help those dropout kids, so we might as well let the kids who are on the right track have some fun, and give the rest something to do until they drop out.

          If Edible Schoolyards really help at-risk kids pass the tests they need to pass to keep from getting screwed by the system, great. But if not, I think it's reasonable to ask whether it's a good idea to let the program suck up all the oxygen in education reform by masquerading as a comprehensive solution to California schools' massive problems.

          And maybe it will turn out to be just that, I don't know. But I don't think that asking the question qualifies as the stupidest thing anyone's ever said.

          "Not all conservatives are assholes, but most assholes are conservatives." --me

          by Blank Frank on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:57:17 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes but (39+ / 0-)

            Students learn abstract ideas (science) best if they can connect it to day-to-day experiences and things that are important in their own lives.  Getting their hands dirty while learning is just as good as cracking open a book, although doing both is obviously best.

            The question is not whether the chickens needed replacing, the question is whether the fox should have been guarding them in the first place.

            by happymisanthropy on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:16:52 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Absolutely!!!!! (0+ / 0-)

              This is cross-training for the mind. At-risk kids are by definition surrounded by personal issues, and I would argue any program that helps them constructively look outside of their current situation is a potential benefit to them and to society in general (I say this as a former at-risk kid). I can also see it inviting a wide range of kids, not just those attending better-resourced schools, to be more conscious of environmental issues crucial to the future of the planet.

              And you want reading and arithmetic? It's in there. If the kids learn to estimate yields per crop and per square foot, learn to use ratios and fractions to scale their gardens up and down in size, learn area and perimeter dimensions -- that's practical arithmetic they will not soon forget. If they are taught to grow their own food as well as investigate commercial food production, there's an entre to geography as well as to current thought on Big Agra, GMO foods, national and world agricultural policy, world food demand, water rights and resources, on and on and on it goes. Cooperation, resource stewardship, history, sociology, food banking, self-sufficiency, personal responibility, the satisfaction of applying effort and attention and obtaining palpable and wholesome results -- there's a down side to this?

          •  Or maybe, just maybe (69+ / 0-)

            (says this teacher) -- doing hands-on activities like gardening as a framework for learning makes that learning more accessible to

            - kids who are kinesthetic learners

            - kids who have trouble sitting still at a desk all day

            - kids who have no context or vocabulary for discussions of things biological

            - kids who are bored with book learning, and who therefore disengage from school and eventually drop out . . .

            and on and on.

            The "maybe" above was tongue in cheek. All of the points I listed -- that some students learn best by doing, that movement and activity help most students learn better, and that context-building is important (especially for students from the kind of culturally-deprived backgrounds you are talking about) -- are basic principles of Education 101.

            If taught poorly, can a school garden suck up learning time and provide nothing in return? Sure. But so can worksheets, or following the prescribed curriculum mindlessly and without passion. Not every teacher does the best possible job of teaching, obviously. But for those who have clearly defined learning objectives and do a good job of relating the activities to those objectives, this kind of engaging, hands-on activity can be an extraordinarily rich and engaging form of teaching, and can provide depth of knowledge that other forms of teaching cannot begin to approach.

            Relax - the adults are in charge now.

            by NWTerriD on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:21:57 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  That's not limited to kids, either (10+ / 0-)

              I use stuff like that in my classes, and I teach adults. We start the desktop publishing class by doing paste up, even though nobody does it anymore. But it's a great way to introduce the pasteboard metaphor that publishing software uses (and that most of them have never dealt with), a way to explain where the terminology comes from (which they've also never heard before) and a way to get them engaged with the concepts we'll be covering.

              If my database class goes this semester, I'm planning on doing something similar for explaining table relationships. Haven't quite worked out the mechanics yet.

          •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
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            ksingh, Jill Richardson

            At the school my kids attended last term, they were only allowed to participate in the extras if they were doing quite well in their core subjects. So a gardening program would not have been available to half the kids.

          •  I'd be ok if the edible schoolyard gave at-risk (33+ / 0-)

            Kids the nutrients they need to survive.

            In the mean time, physical activity has been shown to be absolutely critical to learning ability. Gardening is physically demanding:

            With regular exercise, the body builds up its levels of BDNF, and the brain's nerve cells start to branch out, join together and communicate with each other in new ways. This is the process that underlies learning: every change in the junctions between brain cells signifies a new fact or skill that's been picked up and stowed away for future use. BDNF makes that process possible. Brains with more of it have a greater capacity for knowledge. On the other hand, says UCLA neuroscientist Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, a brain that's low on BDNF shuts itself off to new information.

            And finally, anyone who thinks that schools would implement an on-site garden without an associated curriculum discussing all sorts of aspects of biology, ecology, math, and other needed skills is entirely unaware of how schools work. As far as I can tell, the Atlantic article is a bunch of winger talking points disguised by better spelling.

            •  Hmm. (9+ / 0-)

              Well, first of all I'd like to thank everyone for not flaming me and my minority viewpoint. :p

              That said, I'm not sure who this "unaware" person is "who thinks that schools would implement an on-site garden without an associated curriculum discussing all sorts of aspects of biology, ecology, math, and other needed skills." It's certainly not the author of the article:

              ...soon the exciting garden had made its influence felt across the disciplines. In English class students composed recipes, in math they measured the garden beds, and in history they ground corn as a way of studying pre-Columbian civilizations.

              Like a lot of people in this thread, I read the excerpted paragraph and agreed with Jill. I then read the rest of the Atlantic article (which I'm starting to think makes me a bit of a rarity here), and started to think that there might be two sides to the story.

              As I said in my comment above, I'm not sold on the article's viewpoint. I'm just not convinced that dismissing it as "winger talking points" or "the most idiotic thing I've read this decade" is particularly helpful

              "Not all conservatives are assholes, but most assholes are conservatives." --me

              by Blank Frank on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 11:55:49 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Read the article before (6+ / 0-)

                seeing this diary and thought it was quite convincing also.  I think that this sort of thing is best settled with evidence and there isn't any I have seen in this thread to make the case that this improves scores/pass rates etc.

                Of course, some may argue that thats not the right way to judge etc and thats of course fine, but I suspect that for most genuinely disadvantaged kids its things that actually improve those scores that matter most to their families.

                I myself grew up in a very disadvantaged economic situation and my life was transformed because of education and learning and I do think its important to measure the impact of any supposed intervention reasonably objectively.

                A piece that starts from the premise that someone who puts together a careful critical argument thats obviously thoughtful is somehow guilty of writing a stupid record setting article is only going to convince those on your side of the debate already.

                If these gardens are as great as claimed for kids, please post some hopefully objective studies of impact on some measurable aspect of educational achievement if you've any interest in winning over the sceptics.

                I don't know how many people read the Atlantic magazine but if gardens in schools is such a positive innovation you should be able to muster a better defence than this.

                Remember to kick it over.

                by sprogga on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 02:14:48 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I didn't see (13+ / 0-)

                  a careful critical argument that's obviously thoughtful; I saw a piece that sounded like the writer had reached her conclusion before she started writing, filled with loaded and snide adjectives aimed at the people and the programs she's attacking, with special venom reserved for Alice Waters. It even crossed my mind that there might be an undercurrent of envy lurking just beneath the surface.

                  Does this

                  Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, an eatery where the right-on, "yes we can," ACORN-loving, public-option-supporting man or woman of the people can tuck into a nice table d’hôte menu of scallops, guinea hen, and tarte tatin for a modest 95 clams—wine, tax, and oppressively sanctimonious and relentlessly conversation-busting service not included.

                  sound like a careful, critical argument?

                  And here  

                  "In the 1960s, John F. Kennedy implemented the President’s Council on Physical Fitness to instill values of physical fitness. [Waters] considers the current prevalence of childhood obesity and early-onset Type 2 diabetes to be signals for immediate action similar to the fitness council."

                  Well, there’s a leap of logic. Waters calls for a new federal program based on an old one, but the new one is necessary only because the old one has obviously failed: American kids are fatter and sicker than ever. (emphasis mine)

                  she conveniently ignores the possible reason why the old program has failed: could it be because it's been gutted through defunding by tax-cutting conservatives? I haven't researched this, but I do know that in my state, many urban public schools have no PE programs for their kids because the schools are so overcrowded that they've been forced to convert their gyms into classrooms and install prefabs in their schoolyards.

                  These are just two examples, I could have provided many more if I had the time.

                  And BTW, I also come from very humble beginnings and was enabled to succeed beyond my wildest dreams, thanks to free public education.

                  The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

                  by sidnora on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 06:20:34 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  The piece (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    brenda

                    puts together an argument that the claims for school gardens are untested and taken as faith.

                    If you object to the occasional color comment en route thats OK, I don't.

                    I thought your second point was more interesting but I'm not sure it really invalidates what the author is saying.  I don't know why the original program failed, and if it really was just for want of resources its an interesting illustration of the point the author is making. Would the resources used for these gardens be more effective in reinstating the original physical fitness program?

                    I don't know but given that every single positive comment I've read in this diary has been anecdotal rather than based on even a limited study, I suspect nobody else does.

                    Remember to kick it over.

                    by sprogga on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 08:05:02 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Occasional color comment?! (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Robespierrette, raincrow

                      I had to check the byline, because it felt like it was written by Maureen Dowd. All snark, all the time. Her position was obvious from her first, highly sarcastic and stat-free paragraph. People who have good info to back up their positions don't need to descend to the kind of snide ad-hom attacks she spends most of the piece indulging in.

                      Education is a field in which statistics are notoriously subject to distortion in the service of political position. Notice that she had no problem marshalling stats that support her position, but threw out that squib about the phys. ed program with no probing into the reasons behind her contention. She was just happy to point out a failed federal program. We have no garden program here, so it's not like the money's going there instead of to phys. ed.

                      Why not ask Jill to go digging for stats on the success or failure of the school gardens program? She's never shy about stats, and it would make a great diary. My suspicion, though, is that it's too new to have anything statistically significant to show.

                      Many many positive comments were from education professionals; perhaps b/c I've been married to a truly dedicated one for almost 40 years, I tend to take their anecdotal comments more seriously than an opinion from a journalist.

                      The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

                      by sidnora on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 08:56:44 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Wasn't the Governator Clinton's chief of (0+ / 0-)

                      PR for the President's Physical Fitness Program for awhile?

                      Oh, but in Kaleefornya, we can't afford recess. It's time away from studying for the (stupid, like all one-size-fits-all things bereft of the completing adjective "Badly") tests.

                      Pfui.

                      Texas: Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Lady Bird & LBJ, Ann Richards, Sam Rayburn, Dan Rather, Ike, Sully Sullenberger, Lloyd Bentsen. It's No Bush League!

                      by BlackSheep1 on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 10:19:10 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                •  The metric (9+ / 0-)

                  about improving scores/pass rates is a bogus one. Not everything of educational value is going to drop straight to that bottom line we have become so obsessed with in modern times.

                  Look around you. America is a nation of obese and unhealthy people who have lost connection with real food. How many of us think food comes from a can or a box, not from the earth?

                  •  I think it will give these kids the (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    BlackSheep1, elmo, fat old man

                    opportunity to learn to grow their own food as adults.
                    living in the inner city, sometimes there is a lack of fresh
                    vegetables and it would be a wonderful thing to
                    teach them to be self sufficient instead of just building
                    a McDonalds around the corner...

                    It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. Ansel Adams -6.5 -6.75

                    by Statusquomustgo on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 09:07:53 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                •  Is this a slam at Michelle Obama for her garden? (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  BlackSheep1, Statusquomustgo, Pebbles

                  Honestly, I haven't read the article either but I live in the inner city and produce a garden every year.I let the kids pick the strawberries and even let them taste the beans.They reached over the fence (this was a problem) to pick the peppers and I warned them they were hot.

                  Well, you know kids, they dared each other to eat one.
                  It was humorous but it also taught them to respect my garden.

                  We talked about how their moms liked beans and
                  tomatoes too.I plan to plant extra next year for them to take home tomatoes to their moms.

                  Its about respect for ones property as well as where veggies come from.

                  There are many lessons to be learned from growing a garden,the least of which is that its hard dirty work.
                  I do it for enjoyment, exercise, health and way to share with my neighbors.I don't do it for the hard work.

              •  I read the article before the diary as well (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                brenda, sprogga

                I wonder what percentage of the people who rec'd this hit-piece diary actually read the article it attacks?

                Myself, I found the article convincing in places, overly facile in others. But it was for the most part well-reasoned, and backed by evidence (albeit of variable quality).

                Like you, I'm not completely sold one way or another on this issue, but the diarist completely misrepresented the article. To proclaim it to be the most idiotic article of even this short decade is absurd, hyperbolic, and unfair.

                Indeed, listing, in detail, the various subjects that can be illuminated for children via working in a garden entirely misses the point of the article, which is to cast doubt on whether gardening, as applied in the California public schools, is the most effective way to do so, and to suggest that the advocates of this program, while well-meaning, may be mistaken about it.

                •  I recced in spite of the headline (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  indres, Amber6541

                  I enjoyed the delineation of all the different benefits of a garden program.  The diarist could have skipped mentioning the Atlantic article at all, and it probably would have improved the diary.

                  I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

                  by tle on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 07:13:31 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  I recommended it because of the discussion taking (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  BlackSheep1

                  place.  I have no children in school, but I found the discussion interesting and informative.

                  Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough. Franklin D. Roosevelt

                  by Amber6541 on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 08:51:41 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  Blank Frank, did reading the whole article (0+ / 0-)

                and finding this choice nugget embedded in it not alert you to the writer's prejudices?

                Waters, described by her biographer, Thomas McNamee, as "arguably the most famous restaurateur in the United States," is, of course, the founder of Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, an eatery where the right-on, "yes we can," ACORN-loving, public-option-supporting man or woman of the people can tuck into a nice table d’hôte menu of scallops, guinea hen, and tarte tatin for a modest 95 clams—wine, tax, and oppressively sanctimonious and relentlessly conversation-busting service not included. (I’ve had major surgeries in which I was less scrupulously informed about what was about to happen to me, what was happening to me, and what had just happened to me than I’ve been during a dinner there.)

                If not, then maybe you ought to read the thing again. It's a rant.

                Texas: Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Lady Bird & LBJ, Ann Richards, Sam Rayburn, Dan Rather, Ike, Sully Sullenberger, Lloyd Bentsen. It's No Bush League!

                by BlackSheep1 on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 10:10:31 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  My sister has a garden for her (25+ / 0-)

            inner city kids. She teaches at a middle school that takes only at-risk students. She and the students planted a garden in a lot adjoining the school. They grow herbs and vegetables and once things are ripe, cook meals in the classroom. The garden is indeed used across the curriculum and incorporated into writing, reading, and math lessons.

            Like the plants, the students are thriving. The proof? The students, all boys, from this school are being accepted into the best high schools, public and private (with scholarships in the city; by late elementary school, teachers had expected these kids to drop out of school, not go to a college prep high school. They also do well in high school; one of them a few years ago was the valedictorian of a nationally renowned school.

            Of course the garden alone is not responsible for the boys' successes, but it has been a popular and well-regarded part of school for these students and has helped, not hurt, their education.

            Want to know the most damaging thing I saw in my own time as a classroom teacher? The drilling to prepare for standardized tests. The public schools required it and required it be done by the book, kids' interest be damned. I saw the light drain from kids eyes as soon as the workbooks were brought out.

            I also have to say I take anything Caitlin Flanagan writes with a huge grain of salt. I've read many of her articles over the years, because she can be quite smart and funny, but she's a contrarian for the sake of being a contrarian, and I've wondered if she even believes half of what she writes or just likes cashing her checks from The Atlantic.

          •  There is much evidence - (14+ / 0-)

            in many cases, more than simply anecdotal - that "hands-on" activities, specifically gardening, are of incredible benefit to some of our most "at-risk" populations.

            The Insight Garden Program, for example, enhances the rehabilitation process at the tough San Quentin Prison:

            Through the act of caring for plants, the qualities of responsibility, discipline and mindfulness transfer to the interpersonal realm — by growing plants, people also "grow."

            ...men learn about landscaping and gardening, including (but not limited to): planning, budgeting and design, irrigation, soil amendment, seasonal garden maintenance, and plant ID and propagation.

            By working in an organic flower garden, men also become ecologically literate — developing an awareness of their connection to and impact on the world around them. They learn about the interconnectedness of human and ecological systems and how the principles of the natural world, such as diversity and cooperation, transfer to all levels of human systems.

            British Columbia's Women's Garden Project has also proven to be an effective educational tool for rehabilitating at-risk incarcerated women:

            Most people who end up in prison come from a variety of life-long difficulties that include growing up in environments of poverty, low levels of formal education, childhood abuse, limited options and a lack of role models for earning a living honestly...

            ...Prison gardeners take great pride their ability to be part of society. Along with the working skills they learn, program participants also find out how to work cooperatively. Time is often taken to discuss effective ways to resolve dispute, include others in decision making, or find more respectful ways to communicate with each other...

            ...Being close to nature also promotes good mental and physical health.

            If anything, it sounds as if the Edible Schoolyard program's life skills might be among the most valuable skills a poor "at-risk" urban child could develop.

            The "3 R's" are essential and need to continue to be taught rigorously. So does art (I wonder how Ms. Flanagan would feel about that "waste of time"?), and science, and music, and exercise.

            In fact, as a former teacher, I'd like to see fewer computers in elementary school classrooms and more non-virtual teaching aids.

            I didn't get that the "Edible Schoolyard" program advocated eliminating "the basics" from curricula. But "hands-on" subjects - drafting, wood shop, metal shop, and other "uncool" non-college-oriented activities have increasingly been removed from schools with, I think, a disasterous effect on the overall educational product.

          •  This is the third cycle of school garden (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Rogneid, indres, rossl

            development in the US.

            The first occurred during 1900-1930s; progressive education and reform movements encouraged garden based learning.  The second occurred during the 1960s counterculture and environmental movement. This incarnation, starting in the 1990s, has focused on nutrition and environmental education.

            Considering the longevity of this movement, there is not a great deal of objective evaluation. In fact, there is almost nothing but positive anecdotal evidence. What is clear is that without a strong academic curriculum and skilled teachers companying school gardens, these projects can be a diversion. Fun, affording exercise and exposure to good food, but not academically meaningful.

            He who distinguishes the true savor of food can never be a glutton, he who does not cannot be otherwise. - Thoreau

            by the fan man on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 05:00:58 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  If this was all the good a garden did (5+ / 0-)

              It would be enough to make it worthwhile.

              Fun, affording exercise and exposure to good food, but not academically meaningful.

              By having some part of the school day incorporate something that is healthy fun and gave children a chance to move their bodies, the rest of the school experience becomes less dreary. We used to have gym classes required but more and more schools are eliminating gym class.  Children are made to spend a good part of their day being physically inactive. Between sitting in class all day and then coming home to do homework and then relax in front of the computer playing computer games or watching TV, children don't run and play outside anymore. Schools and parents are teaching their children to ignore their need to move and as a result we have fat, neurotic kids who hate school. Added to that are the constant commercials for high fat, high sugar foods and kids reject the vegetables and fruit they need to stay healthy. The school garden provides incentive to eat healthy foods as food we grew ourselves is always more interesting to eat.  It gives the kids a chance to get out of their seats and move around while doing something worthwhile.  The education part is gravy.

              •  I agree, but I was responding to the limited (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Bright, indres

                resources, more important priorities argument. A garden can be a centerpiece of a curriculum or a healthy diversion. If resources are tight, it makes sense to have proof a garden can be benefit students academically.

                He who distinguishes the true savor of food can never be a glutton, he who does not cannot be otherwise. - Thoreau

                by the fan man on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 06:16:06 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I agree-- Let's see the statistics (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  the fan man, sprogga

                  I think one of the biggest problems in education in this country is how many curriculum decisions are made based on ideology and NOT any systematic measure of outcomes.  And this is true whether we're talking about right-wing "abstinence only" curricula or left-wing "school gardens" initiatives.  If you're going to argue that something decreases dropout rate, enhances earnings post-graduation, makes students better learners, or improves their lives in whatever way, that's fine-- just find a way to measure it that we can all agree on, and then prove your points with data.

                  •  I wrote in another comment, despite a very long (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ybruti, Zulia, indres

                    history of school gardens (starting in the 1900's), very little research has been done about the work. I know from personal experience they create very positive experiences for kids, particularly for high risk youth, but no one has quantified benefits (except the Berkley group which isn't objective, but sincere). It should be done. Here's a quote from John Dewey, just to show this isn't a new left wing excercise, it's an old one:

                    "Where schools are equipped with gardens . . . opportunities exist for reproducing situations of life, and for acquiring and applying information and ideas in carrying forward of progressive experiences. Gardening need not be taught either for the sake of preparing future gardeners, or as an agreeable way of passing time. It affords an avenue of approach to knowledge of the place farming and horticulture have had in the history of the human race and which they occupy in present social organization. Carried on in an environment educationally controlled, they (gardens) are means for making a study of the facts of growth, the chemistry of soil, the role of light, air, moisture, injurious and helpful animal life, etc. There is nothing in the elementary study of botany, which cannot be introduced in a vital way in connection with caring for the growth of seeds. Instead of a subject belonging to a peculiar study called ‘botany,’ it will then belong to life, and will find, moreover, its natural correlation with the facts of soil, animal life, and human relations . . . It is pertinent to note that in the history of man, the sciences grew gradually out of useful social occupations."

                    He who distinguishes the true savor of food can never be a glutton, he who does not cannot be otherwise. - Thoreau

                    by the fan man on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 07:15:02 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Benefits stated well here: (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      the fan man

                      Gardening need not be taught either for the sake of preparing future gardeners, or as an agreeable way of passing time. It affords an avenue of approach to knowledge of the place farming and horticulture have had in the history of the human race and which they occupy in present social organization. Carried on in an environment educationally controlled, they (gardens) are means for making a study of the facts of growth, the chemistry of soil, the role of light, air, moisture, injurious and helpful animal life, etc. There is nothing in the elementary study of botany, which cannot be introduced in a vital way in connection with caring for the growth of seeds. Instead of a subject belonging to a peculiar study called ‘botany,’ it will then belong to life, and will find, moreover, its natural correlation with the facts of soil, animal life, and human relations . . . It is pertinent to note that in the history of man, the sciences grew gradually out of useful social occupations.

                      Texas: Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Lady Bird & LBJ, Ann Richards, Sam Rayburn, Dan Rather, Ike, Sully Sullenberger, Lloyd Bentsen. It's No Bush League!

                      by BlackSheep1 on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 10:25:44 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  That means data should be available... (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      the fan man

                      ...for programs that have already been tried, it may yet be possible to cobble together a dataset of the kids who attended school while there were school gardens, what their grades were, whether or not they dropped out, whether or not they went to college, what careers they eventually got, etc.  It would take some serious research-- probably some time looking through dusty boxes of old records, maybe interviewing some former students about their experiences and the impact of the program, etc., but if somebody really believes in this cause, they should be willing to take on a project like this.  Obviously not all schools are going to give up their records so easily, but even a small retrospective study with data from only a couple of schools would be better than no study, imo.

                  •  Absolutely agree (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    the fan man, Bright

                    it really does cut both ways. If we can't back up some of these ideological assertions we've no defense against those who argue that (say) creationism is a good thing to teach.

                    Remember to kick it over.

                    by sprogga on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 07:57:13 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  Like the data showing NCLB is (0+ / 0-)

                    a self-replicating ongoing EPIC FAIL?

                    Texas: Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Lady Bird & LBJ, Ann Richards, Sam Rayburn, Dan Rather, Ike, Sully Sullenberger, Lloyd Bentsen. It's No Bush League!

                    by BlackSheep1 on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 10:24:35 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

          •  Offhand, I'd hazard a guess that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            flowerfarmer

            you're not a teacher -- more of a self-righteous bloviator. Please correct me if I'm mistaken.

          •  Having taught in Philadelphia... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ybruti, the fan man, indres

            ...I tend to agree that a garden is maybe the least of a school's priorities, assuming you could even get one to grow at all with all the smog and pollution, and assuming there was any grass or dirt anywhere on the school's campus where you could put a garden (some are just surrounded totally by parking lot.)  

            From my experience, I noticed Philadelphia schools are already skimping on or lacking altogether some important parts of the curriculum I had growing up-- most notably, music, art, science, computers, and physical education.  Most of their school experience seems to be focused on drilling reading skills and basic math, apparently for the purpose of having the largest percentage of children possible pass the required tests (as this can impact the schools' level of funding.)  

            As far as resources, there's never even paper in the photocopiers!  Where would the seeds, worm buckets and gardening tools come from?  While I think it is a very pretty idea, I know that there are a LOT of things most inner-city schools have on their curriculum wish-list ahead of gardening, and at least some of those skills might be more likely than gardening to lead to college/careers for the children in question.  My particular bias is, I would like to see more vocational and financial  skills taught in schools, so that kids who graduated (or got close) would be able to do trades other than flipping burgers and earn a decent living, and also understand how to put their limited resources to work most effectively to lift themselves out of poverty.

            •  Bright, consider if you will (0+ / 0-)

              that those kids need something other than parking lots and an imprisonment experience in school, eh?

              The ACLU's "School to Prison Pipeline" series of articles is a great place to find reasons to knock down that "drilling for standardized tests" paradigm THROUGHOUT our schools.

              Texas: Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Lady Bird & LBJ, Ann Richards, Sam Rayburn, Dan Rather, Ike, Sully Sullenberger, Lloyd Bentsen. It's No Bush League!

              by BlackSheep1 on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 10:27:41 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  My point is... (0+ / 0-)

                ...more along the lines of, "school gardens would be hard to implement, expensive, and possibly disappointing if tried in an urban environment where there's nothing but parking lot everywhere and plant life in general doesn't fare so well due to pollution."

                I am not saying the children shouldn't have "wholesome" things in their lives that stimulate their imaginations.  But on the long list of things those kids wish they had at school, I think gardening doesn't rate as high as, say, computers.  Or enough school supplies so that they didn't run out halfway through the first semester.  Or music instruction.  Or regular PE classes and after-school sports.  Or wood shop, auto shop, metal shop, electrician / plumbing / construction classes, etc.  There are plenty of "hands-on" activities that we could teach children that would engage their creative sides, while also being job training in disguise.  While a garden might encourage a kid to grow up and become a chemist, a chemistry class in a well-equipped chemistry lab with the same tools the students would likely encounter in a workplace as chemists might also do the same thing in a much more direct manner.  

                Also, the public schools I taught in had almost zero financial education, meaning we were sending kids off to work after graduation without knowing what a 401k was, or 401k matching, or what stock options were, and with no understanding of why they should fight for these benefits at their workplaces, or look for workplaces that offered them.  Not to mention such basic stuff as how interest is compounded, what a 21% interest rate really means as far as how long it will take to pay off, what fields earned what kinds of paychecks (and whether it was worth taking out 80k in student loans to get a social work or teaching degree, etc) and why credit cards and payday loans perpetuate poverty and are a terrible idea.  As dry as this topic might seem, if I could ONLY pick one or the other, I'd much rather see kids receive a financial education that would help them make smart choices about the future, than learn to garden.  

                Schools, imo, should be preparing kids for one thing: surviving life.  That means they need to teach kids skills they need for communicating with others, making enough to live on and managing their money (including doing taxes, paying bills, home-buying, etc,) taking care of their own health, (including nutrition, exercise and how to regulate their reproduction,) and caring/providing for their future offspring.  Other character-building lessons (like having confidence, obeying laws, dealing with adversity, learning to behave responsibly) are also important.  But the point of education shouldn't be a pipeline to prison, it should be a pipeline to self-supported independent living and good citizenship.  An inner-city kid may never have more soil in their lives than will fit in a pot on their windowsill, so teaching them to garden when you could be teaching them how to install carpets or cut hair or repair transmissions or invest for retirement early seems like an (admittedly well-intentioned) mismatch.

                •  I would suggest windowbox or indoor (0+ / 0-)

                  gardens in such environs. Of course this isn't the same as clean air and wholesome soil but it shows that you don't have to live in a concrete jungle.

                  what is needful is a balance, and what we have done since at least the 1994 Contract On America is defund (and otherwise undermine) our public schools. This has been deliberate, and is aimed at making / keeping "the underclass" in its place.

                  what I can prove, from teaching Cub Scouts, is that kids who have hands-on experience retain the information better than kids who do a rote-memory exercise.

                  But to answer this point you make, I'm an optimist and I look forward to the day when AIG fails and all the following gobbledy-gook "financial information" stops sucking the life out of our nation in the name of some amorphous "economy".

                  Also, the public schools I taught in had almost zero financial education, meaning we were sending kids off to work after graduation without knowing what a 401k was, or 401k matching, or what stock options were, and with no understanding of why they should fight for these benefits at their workplaces, or look for workplaces that offered them.  Not to mention such basic stuff as how interest is compounded, what a 21% interest rate really means as far as how long it will take to pay off, what fields earned what kinds of paychecks (and whether it was worth taking out 80k in student loans to get a social work or teaching degree, etc) and why credit cards and payday loans perpetuate poverty and are a terrible idea.

                  401Ks are a form of con game foisted on us by the GOP in an effort to destroy Social Security. 401K "matching" is an imaginary "contribution" to these pyramid schemes that lets firms claim they're granting benefits while refusing to pay living wages. Both should be outlawed IMNVHO. Stock options are another way in which the elites continue to feed each other while cheating working folk out of their share of the nation's bounty.

                  The best sort of financial education we can provide our young people is to put their money in a credit union instead of a bank, and to avoid credit card debt and other debt as much as possible. If this means that becoming a teacher or a social worker indebts a student too far, perhaps the state or county or local township or school district ought to raise the pay of such workers, whose wages are constantly under attack by the "financial wizards" and "free market" gurus whose "economic genius" has led us to the wrack and ruin in which we suffer today.

                  Compound interest is only good if it's paid on your savings.

                  The biggest single thing we could do in the USA to help ourselves and our progeny prosper is eliminate for-profit healthcare. If teaching our kids to eat better -- even if it comes out of raising a part of what they eat in pots on their windowsills or buckets on the roof -- helps us have healthier kids, that's a bonus. But of course, that flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that those who work in banking, law, insurance or high finance are somehow better than people who raise their own food in windowsill pots and make their living cutting hair or fixing cars, because they're going to be drones anyway and don't need to understand anything beyond how to fill in the oval on a standardized test.

                  Texas: Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Lady Bird & LBJ, Ann Richards, Sam Rayburn, Dan Rather, Ike, Sully Sullenberger, Lloyd Bentsen. It's No Bush League!

                  by BlackSheep1 on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 03:46:08 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  I thought the school gardens in the barrio (6+ / 0-)

            area where I used to live -- which was urban and had a very, very high low graduation rate -- were a really helpful contribution (they were technically a community gardens around the corner). Particularly for urban and at risk youth, gardening is positive on every level.

            I have to agree with Jill that this article got it dead wrong.

            Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. - MLK

            by mahakali overdrive on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 08:10:59 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Blank Frank, one point at a time: (0+ / 0-)

            Your boyfriend's kids aren't the at-risk youth that the author of the Atlantic piece is worried about.

            The Atlantic piece isn't about helping at-risk kids learn life skills. It's about fear of change, and keeping the children of stoop labor in their place -- doing stoop labor, as dropouts. She doesn't differentiate between part of a school day spent seeing, measuring, harvesting, preparing and eating something fresh and wholesome, while learning how it grows and how it nourishes, and being a de facto slave in the migrant labor camps. Her assumptions about the experience of the child in question are written with her own scathing disapproval of all things nonregulation, and the very tone of her article indicts her.

            Your boyfriend's kids have at least one adult in their lives who's capable of writing a book. That gives them quite a leg up on a lot of kids.

            This is unfair: how do you know that no migrant laborer could write a book, or no migrant laborer's wife? (I live in Texas, and have worked in Texas for many years. Los gentes are not stupid just because they work in the fields, vato.) That you wouldn't read such a book, especially should it be written in Spanish, is more likely; and that too is an indictment of regimentation the old-style system fosters. It divides us by language and culture; and the American fixation on English-only impoverishes us all.

            You have both the skills and the inclination to make sure your kids (not literally yours in this case) don't fall through the cracks. Not all kids do.

            But Richardson advocates helping all children in her article; she points out the tailoring of each activity to age-appropriate levels, and she shows exactly how her garden helps children understand important concepts like basic biology, the need for clean water and healthy soil, and the interdependence of all creatures. Meanwhile, the Atlantic piece advocates only regimentation and stomping out curiousity and hands-on experience in favor of dry tomes by dead white guys.

            I don't doubt that Edible Schoolyards are great for your kids, or even that they're fun for all kids. The question is whether more fun at school will translate into lower dropout rates for those kids who weren't finishing under the status quo ante.

            The way to improve things is not to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, or didn't you notice that between the 2000 and 2008 elections? The gardens get kids out into the sun -- major studies have shown that a lack of Vitamin D is endemic in our youth now, because they're all indoors at schools that have eliminated recess and schoolyard PE during schoo., then they're home in front of the TV instead of outside because our hysterical media has created a society in which parents are scared of their neighbors as potential kidnappers / molesters / illegal aliens / terrorists.

            A cynic might argue that this emphasis on gardening and so forth makes school more absorbing for those kids who were going to do well anyway (and whose parents, not coincidentally, are more likely to be involved in school board issues), while hanging the at-risk kids out to dry. Can we really afford snazzy initiatives like this if they don't do anything to address the glaring inequities in graduation rates between white kids and Hispanic kids?

            Or maybe giving kids a chance to see and do things in school instead of spend all their time being forced into rote learning for a multiple-guess test that makes or breaks them -- flunk the test and you might as well drop out -- is a way to offer interesting learning experiences that integrate many subjects and spark imagination as well as entrepreneurial thought? Well, can't have that! Pave the gardens, and back to the NCLB flash-cards for everybody. Pfui.

            Maybe we can, I don't know. Or maybe there's nothing that can help those dropout kids, so we might as well let the kids who are on the right track have some fun, and give the rest something to do until they drop out.

            What a cold and heartless approach to take to a child. You should be ashamed of yourself. Or are you a Bell Curve fan?

            If Edible Schoolyards really help at-risk kids pass the tests they need to pass to keep from getting screwed by the system, great. But if not, I think it's reasonable to ask whether it's a good idea to let the program suck up all the oxygen in education reform by masquerading as a comprehensive solution to California schools' massive problems.

            California's massive problems stem from two things: overcrowding and underfunding. Gardens can't fix those problems, but those "tests they need to pass to keep from getting screwed by the system" haven't either, and that's demonstrable over YEARS.

            And maybe it will turn out to be just that, I don't know. But I don't think that asking the question qualifies as the stupidest thing anyone's ever said.

            I'll let your argument here speak for itself ...

            Texas: Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Lady Bird & LBJ, Ann Richards, Sam Rayburn, Dan Rather, Ike, Sully Sullenberger, Lloyd Bentsen. It's No Bush League!

            by BlackSheep1 on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 10:06:01 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  It is used to teach Math and science (0+ / 0-)

            See psot above.  i volunteer at this schoiol.  Thegarden is used to teach math and science lessons (in addition to the state-approved test books,. of course.  In the 6th grade they learn lots of earth science and biology, and it is one way to teach the nitrogen cycle, carbon cycle, photosynthesis etc.  The kids really seem to enjoy it and learn from it, including those at-risk kids who Flanagan purports to be worried about.

            Your new Democratic Party: Billions for the bankster boys and not one dime for abortions. Even if it's your dime.

            by Mimikatz on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 11:35:00 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  I taught in upper class schools and worked with (18+ / 0-)

          teachers in segregated low income districts. School gardens were a great tool in both kinds of schools.

          Why do people persist in believing that Hispanic and African American children are better off if confined to their desks reciting stuff? All kids need to move around and use their hands and experiment. Achievement and wonder go hand in hand?

          Galileo's achievement? Looking through a lens at Saturn and seeing moons.

          Edison's? Playing with wires.

          Einstein's: Imagining himself riding on a beam of light.

          I blog on healthcare issues for Tikkun Daily as Lauren Reichelt.

          by TheFatLadySings on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 04:47:29 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  The decade hasn't ended yet (7+ / 0-)

      Oh, I'm sure it won't win overall because we've got most of 10 years to go and lots of rightwing publications all competing for the title,

      Sorry to nitpick, but the decade goes from the beginning of 2001 to the end of 2010.

    •  Sometimes there is (5+ / 0-)

      just so much stupidity out there I cant take it anymore.

    •  The Atlantic (14+ / 0-)

      was responsible for bringing us Ross Douthat.

      Coincidence?

      We report, you decide.

      If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.--A Boston cabbie, to Gloria Steinem, in the 1970s

      by Mnemosyne on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:14:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Calif State Standards vs Gardening (21+ / 0-)

      Great diary, Jill.

      Here's another great book for ages 5-9 from Heyday Books:

      No Time To Nap, a whimsical tour of the work an organic farmer does in one year. Great fun. Written by a farmer in the Sacramento Valley.
      http://www.heydaybooks.com/...

      Also, another great resource, especially for teachers grades 2-6.  I helped write it: A Child's Garden of Standards-Linking School Gardens to California Education Standards. It was written to help teachers justify the time they "were taking out of learning" (ha!) to take the students to the garden.  The state standards are listed and correlated with gardening activities.

      It's available online (warning, big PDF) at
      http://www.cde.ca.gov/...

    •  And twenty years from now... (17+ / 0-)

      ... those same kids will be wondering why veggies from a can at the store don't taste the same as the ones they used to raise in their own garden.

      I don't see the issue with teaching kids how to grow their own food.  They should know where their food comes from (and where milk and eggs come from, too)... and, more importantly, how to grow their own food if weird stuff happens in the world in the future and they will be forced into a situation where if they don't know how to raise their own food they will starve.  The climate is changing, after all, and it's affecting weather pattens, among other things.

      I was born and raised in the country, and my brother and I weeded the garden when I was a kid.  Unless one has known precisely how a sun-kissed strawberry washed off with the garden hose tastes... or a carrot, or fresh peas in a pod, etc..., one probably can't fully appreciate the difference between fresh ripe veggies and fruits and the artificially-ripened foods that arrive in trucks from thousands of miles away or another continent away.  For that matter, freshly canned veggies that Mom made vs. today's canned veggies in the store... well, today's canned goods can't hold a candle to the flavor of Mom's canned goods.

      Science notwithstanding (and it does take scientific knowledge to raise a good garden, so I know how necessary it is), fresh food is one of the best things one can do for one's self.  The side benefit is self-sufficiency, knowing one can feed one's self and others with the bounty from a garden one has tended.

      Bounty... yes.  Every fall my grandparents used to start calling around asking relatives and neighbors to come get what was left of their huge garden.  Neither one ever learned how to plant a small enough garden that fed only the two of them in their old age.  My mother and aunts were doing the same.  "I've canned and frozen all I can; the shelves and freezer won't hold any more.  Come and get these things so the food doesn't go to waste."  I'm very familiar with those phrases.

      There are many lessons to be learned with growing one's own food.  Giving it away to relatives or neighbors or food shelters is one of the lessons one learns when growing one's own food, too, and it's a lesson in compassion after all the educational and scientific and canning and preserving lessons are finished for the season....

      They're asking for another four years -- in a just world, they'd get 10 to 20. ~~ Dennis Kucinich

      by NonnyO on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 02:27:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  engineering... (10+ / 0-)

      Great little diary; I take exception to only one point: "if it didn't rain then people didn't have water."

      Now is a good opportunity to learn some engineering too!

      From the Hohokam people in central Arizona to the damned up wadis in the Arabian peninsula to the massive and extensive aqueducts of the Romans to the stepped hillside irrigation famously seen around Machu Picchu and countless other examples, our ancestors most certainly knew a thing or two about maintaining and exploiting their water resources.

      •  fieldsey: did the lack of water (0+ / 0-)

        affecting the lack of food maybe create an incentive to build and maintain reservoirs? ;)

        Texas: Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Lady Bird & LBJ, Ann Richards, Sam Rayburn, Dan Rather, Ike, Sully Sullenberger, Lloyd Bentsen. It's No Bush League!

        by BlackSheep1 on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 10:30:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Jill, you should know by now... (7+ / 0-)

      ...that education and non-toxic food are socialist conspiracies!

      Thwarting Republicans since 1978.

      by wiscmass on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 05:42:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There's a Lot of Money to Be Made In Idiotic nt (32+ / 0-)

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 07:44:35 PM PST

  •  Nice diary! (22+ / 0-)

    This reminds me: I have to talk to you.  My wife has been given a farm in the northern Phils and we've been trying to figure out how to make this a good thing.  Evidently the market for organics in that part of the Phils is limited.  Even so....

    To be discussed elsewhere, no worries.

  •  We had gardening in NZ in the 60's (38+ / 0-)

    It was very popular and worked exactly as you describe - all the science and biology was made real. He. Now I am a gardener. :-)

    Seriously. Our school consistently produced kids who did very well academically. This sort of education is not new or revolutionary - it is just a common sense way to get kids to pay attention.

  •  The timing of this is perfect! (29+ / 0-)

    I just posted this request in a comment in Saturday morning's garden blog:

    I have a request.  Our school(elementary) recently put in a greenhouse, so I was trying to come up with some kind of program or seminars to do around earth day, and I was wondering if anyone has ideas or success stories.  I know I would like to do composting, and maybe a planter either with seeds or plant or both.  I will also involve the local garden club since I am a member!  Thanks!! :)

    I can't wait to go through all of your links, thank you!

    "Before criticizing someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, if they get angry, they are a mile away and barefoot." MK's virtual fortune cookie

    by kirbybruno on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 07:47:24 PM PST

  •  My grandmother spends her days in (32+ / 0-)

    a beautiful, chaotic garden. When I was little, I learned more from her about life (both literally and figuratively) through her gardening than I did from school.

    My mother continued the tradition, with a sprawling, natural garden that was filled with little mysteries for me to tease out.

    The simple acts of sticking a seed in the ground, caring for the sprout, and watching what it turns into are incredibly beneficial educational activities, if only because they give people a visceral connection to ... everything.

    Someone is wrong on the Internet! To the Kosmobile!

    by socratic on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 07:58:26 PM PST

    •  I'm Willing To Bet... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bright, Jill Richardson

      That you didn't attend a school with one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the nation.  Someplace where half the kids left school, and were functionally illiterate at the time.  

      Listen, I love gardening.  My parents were part of that whole 'back to the land' thing in the 70's.  We literally grew virtually all of our food for the first fifteen years of my life.  

      And I did great, education wise, and enjoyed my time in the garden.  But I also attended a school that was 99.9% White, rural, and well funded.  It had great teachers.  One that had no crime, and where virtually every parent was engaged and educated themselves.  I think we had maybe a handful of drop outs, and zero (public) teenage pregnancies.  

      In short, it was a really good school, where learning about gardening would probably have added to our education, because we were already being taught very well, very thoroughly.  

      But it's also not the kind of school being talked about in this article.  I don't think there's anything wrong with questioning the usage of gardens as a teaching tool in some schools, specifically those failing to teach even the basics to our children.  

      •  that said (13+ / 0-)

        if the kids get some garden time (not the entire school day but enough to get them excited about it) then they might be more engaged in the classroom stuff because they are actually excited about it.

        I wrote a book! You should buy it!

        by Jill Richardson on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:26:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Isn't That... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bright, CoExistNow

          The idea behind PE?  Music?  Art?  At a certain point, you add so much fluffy extra stuff to the day, that the basic fundamentals needed to actually get anywhere in life get lost.  And California (much of the focus of this article), is definitely losing those things.

          California has some of the highest dropout rates in the nation, and one of the highest rates of adult illiteracy as well.  It's schools suck. period.  

          And while there's a whole lot of reasons for that, and a primary one is that it's starved of funding by Prop 13, the bottom line is that they can't even get their kids (minority students especially) the basics.  

          How are you gonna teach kids about photosynthesis when they can't even read?  What use is talking about the nitrogen cycle when they can't handle percents?  What use is talking about taxonomy, when they can barely read english, much less have a grasp of latin?

          Gardens are great.  That doesn't mean they're appropriate for everyone, everything, and every time.  

          •  wow (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mataliandy, BlackSheep1

            what are you doing on a liberal site, defending prop 13???? That's insanity. Are you aware that our state is in a huge budget crisis? And that tons of services are getting cut? And that Prop 13 has a lot to do with it?

            I wrote a book! You should buy it!

            by Jill Richardson on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:59:35 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  erm...brillo? Art (23+ / 0-)

            is not "fluff" to an artist (or the curators of museums).  Music is not "fluff" to the NY or LA Philharmonic Orchestras.

            PE is not "fluff" when you have huge rates of childhood obesity.

            And gardening is not "fluff" to farmers.

            Forcing kids into sitting at their desks for eight hours, cramming them to be able to pass tests (No Child Left Behind) is probably the worst way to get kids motivated to learn & stay in school & graduate.

            What's really needed is a cultural shift: kids from cultures that truly value learning tend to do very well.  Kids from cultures where learning/education = wimp, like ours, have no motivation.  Art, music, gardening can provide the motivation: give 'em something to work toward.  IMHO.

            GOP: Turning the U.S. into a banana republic since 1980

            by Youffraita on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:12:43 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  How Many Members Of The LA Philharmonic... (0+ / 0-)

              Are illiterate?  How many museum curators can't do basic math?  

              When you have schools failing at teaching the absolute basics, then yes, that other stuff is fluff.  And the idea that these things somehow keep kids motivated and engaged and help them learn the basics is simply not borne out by the facts.

              •  "not borne out by the facts." (11+ / 0-)

                Link please.

                The question is not whether the chickens needed replacing, the question is whether the fox should have been guarding them in the first place.

                by happymisanthropy on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:22:38 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  asdf (5+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                TiaRachel, tovan, RiaD, kyril, BYw

                But the guy shelving stuff at the grocery store has a richer life for being able to play a little guitar to his kids at bedtime.

              •  Good luck finding nutrition in trigonometry. (5+ / 0-)

                Food is one of the fundamental necessities of life, right up there with air to breathe.  So give gardening a little more respect.  It is, or can be, a valuable survival skill, especially for the poor.  And with climate change apparently accelerating, it may well become a necessity for a great many more of us.  Factory farming may not be adequately sustainable, especially in California. The Central Valley aquafers have been declining and the water wars are heating up again.

                Now that I think about it, maybe gardening should be a core course in our schools.

                "I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat." Will Rogers

                by tovan on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 01:07:28 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  I can't muster a report to back it up (14+ / 0-)

                but I can say that the high school I attended, in rural Kentucky, had a very low drop-out rate. Almost everyone had a group to which they "belonged" and that engaged them--band, drill team, drama, debate team, sports etc. The administration cleverly did not allow you to participate unless you were pulling a C average, which motivated many students who to be honest did not find algebra and English that compelling, to soldier on becase it really mattered to them whether they could continue with the football team or pep club.
                This is Motivation 101 stuff--the great majority of people are motivated by social rewards or by tangible rewards that are regular and repeated. "You will pass exams in three years" is just not real to a lot of students. Hell, "you will get promoted in three years" is not that real to me when facing the hoops I need to jump through at work to make that happen, and I'm a grown-up!
                Let's contrast my high school experience to the situation where I live now, in the UK. The UK has never had those "enrichment activities" in normal schools--public (meaning private) schools have them in spades of course, but high schools here generally do not have bands, drama, debate, clubs, drill teams, cheerleading, or much in the way of sports. My son's school had rugby, which kept about 15 guys busy, games were played in a muddy field with no one watching but a few parents. The only "club" was "homework club". The goal for all is "three GCSEs at C or better" at age 16. And half do not make even that goal! Here I can muster some evidence, as I work in education research--every study done where students have been talked to about their school experience has highlighted the sheer boredom of years spent preparing for SATs (an exam given every couple of years here, that determines your school's place in published league tables and its funding), then GCSEs, then A levels. Even the early years (pre-school) curriculum includes a multi-page list of ticky-boxes that teachers are supposed to use to assess progress. A typical British pre-school now includes hours of worksheets and other "pre-academic" activities, and students seem to be turning off in droves. It's gotten so bad that in the Higher Maths GCSE, as the exams are marked on a curve, an actual fail is now a 2:2 (C) and a C is a 1st (A). Hell, my autistic son managed a C in the regular Maths GCSE and I know from trying to tutor him that he really didn't have the slightest clue about algebra or geometry. We have a fantastic "curriculum" but it's taught in such an incredibly boring way that in every school I've visited except some of the special needs schools that have been able to opt out, a third or more of students are just marking time til they turn 16 and can legally quit. which doesn;t make life too pleasant for the group who have decided the hassle is worth it.
                We also have the phenomenon of hothoused kids who have spent so long preparing for exams (not the same thing as learning) that when they come to university they expect everythng to be spoon-fed. They want to know exactly how many sources is "enough," they want a precise essay formula with examples to follow, and they are scared to death to contradict a lecturer. Well, except for my lad, but he never did follow rules... I've taught in HE here for 7 years and appreciate my mature students so much. The undergrads have had any love for learning wrung right out of them. We used to say the first year of uni was spent mainly trying to help them understand that learning is about investigating and experiencing and questioning, not repeating what's in the book...

                Political Compass says: -8.88, -8.67
                "We never sold out cos no one would buy."--J Neo Marvin

                by expatyank on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 01:46:15 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  hmmm (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                BlackSheep1, TiaRachel, Floja Roja, Zulia

                How Many Members Of The LA Philharmonic... (0+ / 0-)

                Are illiterate?  How many museum curators can't do basic math?  

                see? you've proved the point!

                the music & art inspired these kids to LEARN and become more than what they would have!

                The hippies had it right..it's time..the culture as a whole sent out a big, hemp-covered apology. Morford [http://tiny.cc/hippies]

                by RiaD on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 06:08:28 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  Experiential learning has a very long history (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Zulia

            of success. A garden can be a very useful tool IF their is a strong curriculum and motivated teachers.

            He who distinguishes the true savor of food can never be a glutton, he who does not cannot be otherwise. - Thoreau

            by the fan man on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 06:07:00 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  There is plenty of time in a school day (4+ / 0-)

            to cover Language, Math, Science, Social Studies  and Art and Music and Wellness ie: PE.  You'd be amazed at how these can all be integrated into a productive and enjoyable school experience -- and have time left over for some time in a space outside where things grow.  

            A good school program certainly is improved by finances and involved parents-- but removing other pathways for learning such as art, music, and outdoor experiences and eliminating time to run around and exercise  does not automatically result in academic success for students.  SO much of what kids need to learn can overlap - math can help with music and vise-versa, art can help with history, as can science and math-- language is communication and art and history - and a simple garden can be a place for learning too.

            A good learning environment is influenced by many factors - including taking into consideration how children learn, how they feel connected and involved in the process.  Forcing a structure and curriculum that does not take any of that into account will not ultimately be successful.

      •  sorry, but "at risk" children do not thrive (13+ / 0-)

        when told to get busy with worksheets all day, any more than those from affluent backgrounds do. My daughter attended schools all her schooled life--before dropping out at 13--where the population was defined as "at risk" and teachers generally behaved just as you suggest. So there were few enrichment activities to "distract," just loads of worksheets, Reading Recovery, learn how to fill in ovals correctly etc etc. She's bright and was completely turned off by the age of 10. Books weren't stories to be enjoyed, acted out, discussed, they were part of programming children to sit still on a piece of carpet while a book was read by an authority figure. Maths and science took place on worksheets that only required finding the answer in the text book or copying it from the board.
        Were the basics learned? Not by most of the students. The high school she ended up at has one of the highest drop-out and educational failure rates in Oregon, and is a perennial "problem school" that has been in the past made into an "arts magnet" (but underfunded with arts just a tiny add-on to daily tedium), had the magic disciplinarian principal (who failed), divided into "small schools," and every other fad except finding out what actually motivates students to succeed. I would argue that by the time the students involved had reached sixth grade it was already over for most anyway. School had become a horrible chore here you failed and no one cared about or knew you as a person. Indeed, for one classmate it really was--she left sixth grade because she was pregnant as a result of sexual abuse. It wasn't picked up until her trousers didn't fit anymore. A little interaction between students and teachers, instead of passing out worksheets, might have been helpful...
        I would strongly argue that more "risk" children face, the more they need the curriculum to be extended and exciting. School should be a refuge, a place kids look forward to coming to, and a place where you never know what interesting educational things might happen. Seems to me that embedding gardening in the curriculum hits all those buttons!

        Political Compass says: -8.88, -8.67
        "We never sold out cos no one would buy."--J Neo Marvin

        by expatyank on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 01:27:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Even Flanagan has to admit (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TiaRachel, Catte Nappe, DrFood, Zulia, Pebbles

        the kids spend an hour and a half a week in either the garden or the kitchen.

        I don't think that's "taking over" by a long shot. In fact, it's less time than we spent in one day, when I was a kid in the late '60s, at RECESS.

        Texas: Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Lady Bird & LBJ, Ann Richards, Sam Rayburn, Dan Rather, Ike, Sully Sullenberger, Lloyd Bentsen. It's No Bush League!

        by BlackSheep1 on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 10:43:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Six kinds of vomity. (34+ / 0-)

    What a revolting article.  And that's coming from a former math and science teacher who places a very high value on challenging kids with lots of math and science.

    Good gardening isn't an intellectual challenge of any sort, after all.  It's just poking goddamn seeds in the dirt.  Anyone who's been to college couldn't, you know, ever find any meaning or value in it.

  •  My 11 year old daughter's science project (26+ / 0-)

    last year dealt with the effects of different composts on strawberry plants.  It was a most delicious project!

    In an insane society, the sane man would appear insane

    by TampaCPA on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:00:01 PM PST

  •  We learned a lot from gardening as kids. (22+ / 0-)

    How to make someone else do the weeding, for starters...

    I think that even if the only messages retained are 'food comes from dirt & veggies taste good right from the garden," that's sufficient.

  •  These extreme profit privatizers (7+ / 0-)

    of public goods (esp taxes) are stuck in an "us vs. them", zero-sum worldview.

    So, they seem to naturally build upon those fears in their divisive narratives - it's pretty much all they have left when facts on the ground counter their utterly selfish ideology, I feel.

    "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

    by wader on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:03:44 PM PST

  •  heh (5+ / 0-)

    clearly, you don't read sarah palin's facebook page!

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:03:50 PM PST

  •  Jill, if I may say so... (13+ / 0-)

    Your diaries are highly nutritious.  You personally may constitute and entire new food group.

    Super rec this intelligent diary.

  •  Not to mention (11+ / 0-)

    there are things you learn in a garden that you just can't learn in a stuffy classroom.  Things about life and being happy and such.

    But I guess those don't matter when they're up against test scores...

    •  Plus- you learn about how things are all (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackSheep1, TiaRachel, forester, rossl

      connected - from sun and air and rain to soil and seeds to compost and all the creatures in the dirt!  It's really great.  

      A similar feeling is when you can see interconnectedness of ideas - how science affects history and books reflect and prod history and music affects culture, etc, etc.  Also really great.  

  •  I like ther term "foodies" (9+ / 0-)

    I had not heard that before. I think they meant it as a  pejorative term for people who think food is important - like DFH's who don't understand that food is made in a factory by an international corporation.

    "How I hate those who are dedicated to producing conformity." William S Burroughs

    by shmuelman on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:11:09 PM PST

  •  I guess the writer didn't grow up in the country (10+ / 0-)

    My family farm also had a large garden in back that I worked with my mom and dad - quite happily I might add - every single year. I learned a LOT from farming/gardening - geez, did these people never take a biology class?

    The idea that farming/gardening was beneath us would have gotten my father laughing so hard...

    [quote]that have lifted uncounted generations of human beings out of the desperate daily scrabble to wrest sustenance from dirt[/quote]

    What a lovely picture to paint.

    And how disgusting is it that they use the very people they demonize 99% of the time, when it suits their purpose?

    je t'aime mon ange, avec tout mon coeur

    by Remsicle on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:11:56 PM PST

  •  Gardens are SOCIALIST! (14+ / 0-)

    My God, you want to cheat all those poor factory farms out of their income!

    And if people think dirt is useful, how will we be able to take it away from them?  Why, they might even try to steal OUR dirt!

  •  I guess there are some people (12+ / 0-)

    who don't understand the connection between agriculture and science and math.  That's what keeps our education system from being "reformed," the unwillingness to think outside the box (or building) to create learning opportunities for students of all ages.

    They also don't understand that different people learn differently.  I wonder how different their stupid would be if they'd had some exposure to something besides the "tried and true?"

  •  It may just be me (19+ / 0-)

    but when I was younger we did tons of stuff in relationship to plants, and to how they grow and fertilize, etc. It was always a great learning tool, and every teacher that did it incorporated some forms of basic schooling into each projects (Sometimes going above and beyond basic, if the class was interested). It was my favorite thing to do, because I am a hands on type of guy (Kind of explains why I like to do electrical work, even though I was always told that I should be a doctor or a lawyer), and it was always interesting to see what we learn in textbooks actually apply to real life. The cycle of water being done right before our eyes, or the plant life cycle that we watch and have to maintain ourselves. I loved it, and wished High School, and my failed attempt at an University was more like it. It only shows, a guy who got a 25 on his ACT as a sophomore in High School, couldn't make at an University, but put me in a lab doing some hands on, and applying what I am learning, and I got a 4.0. We actually need more of this, and we need to incorporate some fashion of this in every level of schooling, to me it helps.  

    "There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?" -Robert Francis Kennedy

    by LiberalKentuckian on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:17:49 PM PST

  •  this is so true (15+ / 0-)

    i've always let my 3 year old hang out while i gardened, and the question she asks end up bumping up against a lot of pretty important scientific principles. gardens are a fantastic learning device.

    surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

    by wu ming on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:27:34 PM PST

  •  Yes because (17+ / 0-)

    this is just how far removed we've become from our food.  Picking it is dirty and hard work and no one would want to do it because they WANT TO!

    I can't believe how awful that article is on so many levels.  And insulting and ignorant.  How dare people make a honest living to put their kids through school and have those kids be proud of what they do knowing that their work is allowing them to have a better life.

    And yes, it's very educational.  Of course, it's beyond educational, as you point out.  

    I'm just floored.

  •  My guess is that neither the author (19+ / 0-)

    of the Atlantic article nor the editors have ever had much real dirt under their fingernails for more than a minute or two and, the deity of your personal choice forbid, they certainly wouldn't have gotten a blister.

    There's one hell of a lot of difference between picking vegetables on a truck farm and learning someting about the food cycle, etc., etc., etc.

    Oh, how I tire of clueless assholes.

  •  But John McCain said you could make $50 per hour (8+ / 0-)

    just picking vegetables!

    If you've lamented the slipping morality of America while snorting cocaine off a male hooker's back during the filming "Jesus Camp", you might be a Republican.

    by The Gryffin on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:35:17 PM PST

  •  BeeBalm long stem flowers for butterflies (6+ / 0-)

    I think Monarda is the plant name... better than milk weed. Thanks for the diary.

  •  Show, Don't Tell (9+ / 0-)

    I bet what kids learn in the field with their own hands stays in their heads a lot longer than things they only know from books.

    Stuck Between Stations : Thoughts from a bottomless pool of useless information.

    by Answer Guy on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:40:55 PM PST

  •  I suggest planting natives along with the veges (11+ / 0-)

    to bring in wildlife and increase pollination, adding to the vitality and fruitfulness of everything else, including the children ! Wildlife needs habitat creation desperately.

    In our school garden in Northern California, we have brought in lots of lizards and and even a few garter snakes by creating dry-stack rock walls (no mortar )children can easily help build them, as well as owl boxes, butterfly houses, etc.

    So far, our best projects have been pole bean covered "teepees", sunflower "houses", and incorporating the student leadership team in monitoring lunchtime recycling, which includes collecting appropriate vege scraps for the worm bin. We hope to have a bin for every day of the week eventually. The kids just love digging , too, so we left a patch of dirt they could work over and over.
    We did an opening day ceremony ladybug release for Earth Day.
    Lovely diary !

    •  OH WOW! (7+ / 0-)

      Would you be willing to diary what you've done??? Please, please write it up on my blog. Also, if you will do this, let me know that you're going to register so that I don't ban you. We're getting spammed with THOUSANDS of spam user accounts and I spend more time banning people than blogging lately.

      I've got the idea of a pea teepee and we're going to do a Sunflower House just as soon as we read the book about doing just that (I ordered it and it hasn't arrived yet). But the other ideas are things we didn't do yet. We've got some native plants around too, so that's good. And we're doing a lot with greywater - hopefully more soon.

      I wrote a book! You should buy it!

      by Jill Richardson on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:05:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  A patch of dirt they can dig. (8+ / 0-)

      That is one of the most important things about gardening with kids, sometimes a kid needs a hole.
      I volunteer when my daughters class has gardening. Some weeks the garden teacher is there and it really is a science, or a cooking class. Sometimes it's just me and we do some sort of physical labor. Over and over I have seen mulch piles converted into Mount St. Helens. I've also seen kids work really hard and learn a lot. The best thing is watching a kid hesitantly pick a kale leaf, take a bite and say in surprise "its sweet."

    •  Our kid's elementary school did this - (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackSheep1

      in fact - al least at first-  the garden was less about edibles and more about native plant environments- prairie- in our case.  Birds, butterflies, insects, worms and other soil dwelling life, even a toad.

  •  They are pushing an agenda. (11+ / 0-)

    It ranges from the destruction of the public education system (well underway) to the preservation of our current f'd up food production and delivery system.  So they criticize this imaginative program that could open entire unimagined worlds to so many schoolchildren with a repulsively stupid argument that completely misses the point.

    How long before we hear this shit on Fox?

    -5.13,-5.64; EVERYTHING is an approximation! -Hans A. Bethe

    by gizmo59 on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:43:15 PM PST

  •  What do you expect from the mentality... (4+ / 0-)

    ...that thinks that serving on a nuclear-powered ship somehow automatically makes you a nuclear physicist??

    John McCain as Mr. Burns: "Nuclear Safety? Poppycock!!"

    "When even Arlen Specter is asking why the Dems got him to be their 60th Senator if they weren't gonna use the 60 votes, you know something's wrong!" --nyceve

    by Brainwrap on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:49:31 PM PST

  •  Holy shite! (11+ / 0-)

    When I read your title, before I clicked on it, I asked myself, what's the most idiotic thing I've read this decade? And I thought of the exact same friggin' article!

    It's a total crock of shit. I'm so happy someone else saw it, too. (But now I'm ashamed for being lazy and not diaring about it).

    This woman doesn't know anything about gardening. At my place we have chickens, a big garden, bees, and  I can find edible plants, including mushrooms, in the woods out back. We started all this just a few years ago and it's honestly been a revelation. Hard work, yes, but I've never felt I've wasted my time. Exactly the opposite.

    Growing your own food gives you exercise, better food, an understanding and appreciation of nature and science, and saves you money.

    But kids shouldn't do it. What nonsense. The article is cheap, conservative cant. Sometimes I forget how much The Atlantic still sucks.

    Have pitchfork, will travel.

    by thinkdouble on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:56:11 PM PST

  •  I don't know if (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    revsue, RiaD, LynneK, Jill Richardson

    The Atlantic piece is a winner, but this diary sure is!

    "Fear not the path of truth for the lack of people walking on it." Robert F. Kennedy

    by enough already on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:02:57 PM PST

  •  All I can think of is this... (4+ / 0-)

    "When even Arlen Specter is asking why the Dems got him to be their 60th Senator if they weren't gonna use the 60 votes, you know something's wrong!" --nyceve

    by Brainwrap on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:04:19 PM PST

  •  Another idiotic thing: standardized tests (15+ / 0-)

    This author apparently thinks standardized tests are the sole criterion for childhood education.

    Here is the essential question we must ask about the school gardens: What evidence do we have that participation in one of these programs—so enthusiastically supported, so uncritically championed—improves a child’s chances of doing well on the state tests that will determine his or her future (especially the all-important high-school exit exam) and passing Algebra I, which is becoming the make-or-break class for California high-school students? I have spent many hours poring over the endless research on the positive effects of garden curricula, and in all that time, I have yet to find a single study that suggests classroom gardens help students meet the state standards for English and math. Our kids are working in these gardens with the promise of a better chance at getting an education and a high-school diploma but without one bit of proof that their hard work will result in either.

    Get a clue, Caitlin Flanagan.

  •  My first job... (7+ / 0-)

    when I was eight was picking string beans for $1.25 a bushel.  It was not hard work at that age, the hard part was not accidentally pulling up the whole plant.  And having to use a porta john, that did suck. I didn't go back the next summer because the girl I did it with and I weren't getting along, but I have never forgotten it.  I babysat my neighbors dog and chicken coop for them whenver they went to their shore house. Both jobs were my choice and to this day I think that any kid should have the right to work a few hours a day if they want too.

    Intelligence is the new black.

    by chillindame on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:09:33 PM PST

  •  I think my new tag... (6+ / 0-)

    line should be "Don't trust anyone who doesn't garden." Whaddya think?

    Intelligence is the new black.

    by chillindame on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:10:36 PM PST

  •  Oh and all that!! sheesh. What a waste of time! (7+ / 0-)

    Those kids can learn so much more by watching Fox! Food comes in Boxes and plastic trays. It's Magic! /snark

    "I have ferrets with fins" - African Cichlids. And 3 pooties too! Ren, Stimpy (15 yrs) and Rocky (3 yrs)

    by mrsgoo on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:11:59 PM PST

  •  Kids schools and a beekeeper (8+ / 0-)

    This farmer goes to kids' schools in New York City and Massachusetts and teaches about bees and beekeeping.

    I have no financial interest in this. I just find his honey, jams, and syrups   out of this world.

    http://www.berkshireberries.com/...

    Media Reform Action Link http://stopbigmedia.com/

    by LNK on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:15:25 PM PST

  •  Teaching children = Communism. Didntya know? (4+ / 0-)

    Clearly the good people of America are concerned that you might teach the children something that didn't come from the NRA, Sarah Palin or the Bible.

    The crushing ignorance of our society is quickly disqualifying us from any future claim to the mantle of "Leader of the Free World".

  •  Well, you know, organic farming is (15+ / 0-)

    dangerous to your health. Remember the flap when Michelle Obama started her garden? The pro-pesticide people were all over that. They acted as if they are convinced that healthy dirt = poison. I've forgotten the woman's name who ranted the most, and I don't recall her exact words--but here's the gist: she couldn't imagine eating food from a garden that had not been chemically treated.

    You have to feel sorry for people like that, who've never tasted a home-grown, pesticide-free, bright red summer tomato. But that's fine with me. Let's keep them to ourselves, and let them eat the Red Rock variety from their supermarket.

    (My Atlantic arrived today; I'm off to read it now.)

    Don't believe everything you think.

    by Miniaussiefan on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:18:19 PM PST

  •  One of the most awesome things... (9+ / 0-)

    I saw in my garden last summer happened when I pulled up a pile of old Joe Pie weed stalks that never made it into the compost bin the previous winter.  As I was lifting up the third handful, something slithered out from under the last few stalks.  It was a mole snake.  Light tan and almost indistinguishable from the bare soil.  They like to live under things and even though they (like myself) are native to MD I had never seen one before.  I might not ever see one again, but it was an awesome sight.  

    Intelligence is the new black.

    by chillindame on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:25:44 PM PST

  •  Heaven forbid (12+ / 0-)

    that we begin to help children understand the relationship between themselves, their bodies, their being, and the planet that nurtures and sustains them, and vice versa.

    "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." ML King

    by TheWesternSun on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:26:38 PM PST

  •  idiotic straw man (scarecrow?) (11+ / 0-)

    This article is beyond idiotic for a variety of reasons, but the whole school garden thing just sounds like an excuse to flog the same old liberal bogeymen that haunt the red-blooded conservative's dreams. This article has it all: Gardening! Public education! Waste! BERKELEY! You can just see the terminally cynical conservative reading this and muttering something about those damn touchy-feely-wussy liberals, wasting tax money and turning kids into gay socialist terror monkeys.

    When I was in second grade, my class "raised" an egg, taking turns tending it with a heat lamp, etc, until it hatched into a chick, at which point we took a field trip to the farm where it went to live. Did this unassuming little egg destroy my educational experience that year, depriving me of  "reading important books" or math? Was tending the egg like working as slave labor on the Tyson killing floor? Of course not, and it would be just as crazy to imply that it did/it was as it is to imply that having a school garden possibly has similar detrimental effects (or ANY detrimental effects, imo). Which is why I can only imagine that this author is simply using such a tortured argument to further the usual agenda.

    •  Ya Know... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sprogga

      Roughly 40% of California's kids drop out.  Upwards of 15% of the populace can't read at all, and many more can't read much other than children's books.  

      The article isn't questioning the merits of gardening, they're questioning it's appropriateness in some schools, specifically those which are failing at a level unimaginable to many here I would guess.

      •  IMHO (6+ / 0-)

        The first thing that makes them fail is poverty. The second thing is total focus on standardized tests that takes all the relevance, and fun out of learning.

      •  Let's not make it fun to go to school (5+ / 0-)

        Kids learn in many different ways. Think of the garden as an outdoor lab: children can experience all sorts of scientific principles, as the article points out. A garden (and cooking)are great ways to learn math, genetics, ecology while having a good time and getting a little exercise, which kids often desperately need.

      •  It seems unlikely (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiaD, Back In Blue

        that an hour to an hour and a half per week in a garden is the cause of all that misery. Or that cutting it out will fix it.

        Somehow I think those of us in on this discussion must be visualizing different things when we talk about these gardening classes. Some of us seem to be imagining a set of activities where kids get hands-on experience with some concepts and an introduction to some things that's different from the sit-in-a-classroom approach. So naturally we wonder what the problem is -- by analogy, should hands-on biology classes where the kids germinate seeds or breed fruitflies or dissect frogs also be eliminated because doing those things takes away time that could be spent sitting in a chair, cramming for standardized tests?

        Perhaps you're envisioning something much looser and more touchy-feely that's just a big time suck. It would be nice if we all knew more specifics about which vision is closer to the way it really is, and any relevant data on what impact these garden programs actually have.

        Please visit: http://www.jkmediasource.org

        by Noisy Democrat on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 11:40:38 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Shouldn't even be a partisan issue (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackSheep1

      I can understand how, in our weird world, topics such as use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides, etc. could be a partisan issue.

      But the idea that kids should know how to garden is about as American as apple pie.

      My guess is that the real genesis of the article is that Flanagan had a deadline and no topic, or an editor who chose a crazy topic for her, and the whole point of the article was to see if it was possible to make any kind of coherent argument about such an absurd position.

      The author might CLAIM to believe the thesis now, for ego reasons, but I'm sure she has no real problems with her twins gardening. If she does have problems with her twins gardening, it's probably because their school has annoying expectations of parental involvement in the gardening process, not because she has any real problem with the idea of her children getting excited about radishes sprouting.

  •  Please pack this off to editors of The Atlantic!! (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    revsue, RiaD, 4Freedom, LynneK, Jill Richardson

    The media is paying close attention to teh bloggahs.

    Producers and managing editors must be going nuts reading the high quality of real journalism on display!

    Caitlin Flanagan deserves recognition: our scorn! She is the idiot here and you've written an excellent diary! Thanks.

    They only call it class war when we fight back!

    by ezdidit on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:30:45 PM PST

    •  don't take the atlantic myself but I (0+ / 0-)

      can certainly write a comment / lte about the online version, and shall!

      Texas: Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Lady Bird & LBJ, Ann Richards, Sam Rayburn, Dan Rather, Ike, Sully Sullenberger, Lloyd Bentsen. It's No Bush League!

      by BlackSheep1 on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 12:27:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hi Jill (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Floja Roja, 4Freedom, Jill Richardson
    Lovely diary.  How old are the girls?

    If not me, who? If not now, when?

    by ramara on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:31:17 PM PST

  •  Tipped and Rec'd, Jill (5+ / 0-)

    There are some real fools out there

    "I tried to join a Tea Party, but they called me a DFH, eh.", TMC

    by TheMomCat on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:51:08 PM PST

    •  thanks (0+ / 0-)

      are you on a plane to Haiti, btw? I thought of you immediately as soon as the quake hit. Please, if you can, post a diary and let us know more about Doctors w/o Borders so people have more incentive to donate and support your work. And let us know more about Haiti if you know anything.

      I wrote a book! You should buy it!

      by Jill Richardson on Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 12:59:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This bookends with an earlier diary tonight (5+ / 0-)

    about the power the Texas Board of Education has over text book selection nationwide.

    Sadly, it seems there are many flavors of stupid when it comes to educating children.

    I wish all kids had a chance for the stimulation and integration of various disciplines that your program provides.

    Keep up the good work.

  •  While I disagree with the article's hyperbole, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brillo, BoxNDox

    I don't necessarily have a problem with the idea that there are better ways for students to spend their time.

    Then again, I am no expert on educational psychology and my anecdotal experience in the public school system is hardly compelling enough evidence for me to impose my own learning styles on children.

    •  How students spend their time... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Floja Roja, BoxNDox

      is something that educators argue about all the time. I have observed first hand, as an educator and a parent, the value of hands-on learning. Most kids love to work in the garden, are curious about the topics listed in the diary above and retain a lot more of this information when it is tied to real life.

      "The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time." - Terry Tempest Williams

      by your neighbor on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 06:31:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow, my school district had a whole farm (9+ / 0-)

    and not just a garden and it was the top rated school district in the state.  Just imagine how well we all would have done if only they hadn't wasted all that time on the farm lessons.

  •  Reading that (11+ / 0-)

    was like mentally freebasing a gaggle of Sally Quinn and MoDo hit pieces from the 1990's all at once.

    an eatery where the right-on, "yes we can," ACORN-loving, public-option-supporting man or woman of the people can tuck into a nice table d’hôte menu of scallops, guinea hen, and tarte tatin for a modest 95 clams—wine, tax, and oppressively sanctimonious and relentlessly conversation-busting service not included. (I’ve had major surgeries in which I was less scrupulously informed about what was about to happen to me, what was happening to me, and what had just happened to me than I’ve been during a dinner there.)

    What I found myself thinking as I neared the end of it (besides 'thank God') was that the writer was engaged in some serious projection. A whole lot of somebodies own sanctimonious out-of-touch elitism was being dumped unceremoniously onto the heads of others in the name of pointing out just how misguided and out of touch "they" were.

    As if great science, math, history, and art have never sprung later on from the opened mind of a child earnestly understanding and appreciating just where good food comes from. Like these children are just told to leave their brains in a big pickle jar before they go outside to get their hands dirty.

    So much of what passes for professional contrarianism in the traditional media is petty ignorance masked as knowing contempt.

  •  Oh my, I hope the women who wrote this dreadful (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiaD, LynneK, Youffraita

    misinformed article in the atlantic never ever goes near any children. She might be contagious.

    "The truth shall set you free, but first it'll piss you off." -Gloria Steinem

    by Cleopatra on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:12:05 PM PST

  •  well the decade is only (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rogneid

    ten days old. surely something stupider will come along soon

  •  Mark Warner is God's diary?? (0+ / 0-)

    JUST KIDDING!!!!

    Expose the lies. Fight for the truth. Push progressive politics. Save our planet. Health care is a right, not a privilege.

    by lighttheway on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:15:53 PM PST

  •  If there was an actual point to that Atlantic (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1, Rogneid, tommymet

    piece, it was ultimately chewed to death, sucked flavorless and ultimately spit out after being endlessly tossed in its very own fresh-grown, hand-picked word salad.

    Or at least that's my best guess - as it stopped making sense to my poor, malnourished brain about mid-way through the second page and I simply had to move on.

    Apparently that writer gets paid much like the migrant workers she mentioned - by the pound. She obviously would be much better off with a more restricted diet and much smaller basket.

    Now I need something to wash that horrific "taste" out of my brain.  Ahhh... I've got it!

    "We did our duty as human beings: helping people in need." Miep Gies 1909-2010

    by here4tehbeer on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:33:15 PM PST

  •  T&R'd just for mentioning worm bins...........;} (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1, RiaD, LynneK

    J/K. Really applaud your efforts to put all those little hands in contact with the soil that sustains them. Big plus for teaching the life cycles and interconnected processes.

    IGTNT...Honor the Fallen...Grace Their Loved Ones.

    by geez53 on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:54:29 PM PST

  •  Monsanto types (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DjW, BlackSheep1, RiaD, Youffraita

    are doing everything they can to keep a kid off s unadulterated veg

    Separation of Church and State AND Corporation

    by Einsteinia on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:59:01 PM PST

  •  I feel sorry for kids today (6+ / 0-)

    This just seems like a continuation of the idea that if we cut schools back to the basics education will improve. Instead we get sterile, boring classrooms, where imaginations are stifled. Many schools have cut out art, music, PE/sports, and often anything else that isn't on 'the test'. The truth is that nobody knows what skills will be required of these middle schoolers 20 years from now. I spent many hours learning to do math problems that a cheap calculator could do quicker and with less errors, but that doesn't mean the time was wasted (I gained the confidence that comes from facing difficulty and overcoming it).

    Henceforth I ask not good fortune. I myself am good fortune. Walt Whitman

    by Sacramento Dem on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 11:00:04 PM PST

  •  Lord have mercy. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bright, afternine, WVUCavalier

    This is one of the most pretentious diaries of the year (so far). Gardens are lovely. There is a lot of science involved in growing gardens if you care - but a person can grow a garden without understanding science at all. Plant it, feed it, water it, pick it, eat it - or enjoy its beauty.
    Education should first be reading and literature, then math and science, history and geography, music and art, on and on - and gardening comes far down the list.
    I love to garden. But nobody needs to be taught it in those precious school hours - because if they know how to read and do math and understand the world and be able to think - and then they would be able to figure out gardening on their own. It isn't rocket science.

    •  guess what - the world is not divided into (15+ / 0-)

      the separate subjects taught in school, as you've listed them (in order, no less). One of the problems with schooling is the separation and isolation of subject areas. The diary pointed out how something like a garden can integrate many subject areas while at the same time motivating children and letting them learn that food doesn't come in plastic containers. As it happens, I have a graduate degree in education and teach teachers now, but one of my first and most lasting memories from kindergarten at the Lab School at the University of Chicago was walking to the children's garden and watching my little patch of carrots grow (in 1960, when education was, at least in some places, progressive).

      "The universe is made of stories, not atoms." -Muriel Rukeyser

      by tubacat on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 12:20:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes yes yes (6+ / 0-)

        Learning cutoff from linkage to the rest of the world and people's lives is stunted learning. The interlinkage of subjects... reinforces and broadens understanding.

        The piecemeal isolation of concepts starves education of a vital underpinning... the purpose and utility of the ideas.

        Otherwise it all might as well be sterile theoretical boring sets of words and numbers and rules to memorize that appears to have no relation or utility to them... and that pretty much kills school for far too many kids.

        Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

        by IreGyre on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 01:06:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  So there must be lots of evidence (0+ / 0-)

        of the benefits right?

        Remember to kick it over.

        by sprogga on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 02:26:52 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  got any evidence for the utility of no-frills (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BlackSheep1

          just the basics, readin' writing' 'rithmetic schooling?

          The trouble with education, primary education in particular, is that there's no good data on ANYTHING.  Success is so very tied to the talents and interests of individual teachers.  

          If it was easy to raise reading levels and math proficiency of impoverished children, we wouldn't be having this conversation.  But it's not.

          Lots of people claim success for their favorite paradigms, few have hard data.  So stop asking this question, please.

          I would think that many children who aren't inclined to thrive in school would be better served by a hands-on experience such as participating in a school garden.  But I've got no hard data for you.  Please offer up your own hard data, about how great your preferred use of time works for at-risk kids.

          Universal Health Care - it's coming, but not soon enough!

          by DrFood on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 12:09:50 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  My daughter's school is doing this-it's fantastic (6+ / 0-)

        Gardening is an excellent platform for teaching all of the subjects mentioned above, not to mention planning skills and how to work together.  They aren't being shortchanged on anything--all subjects are being enriched by the practical application of skills.

        It's a title 1, dual language immersion school.  My daughter is in first grade.  She reads, writes and speaks both English and Spanish without accent.  She adds and subtracts 2 and 3 digit numbers.  She has an excellent grasp of scientific topics.  All of these have been supported by work in the garden.

        We are in Texas, so she may end up learning that this is a Christian nation and that evolution (like gravity?) is only a theory, but so far so good.

        "The Universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it." Marcus Aurelius

        by Mosquito Pilot on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 03:46:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Really? Let's break this down a bit.... (8+ / 0-)

      Education should first be reading and literature, ....

      I wholeheartedly agree.  You might want to visit a place that has lots of "reading and literature materials.  It's called THE LIBRARY.  Go and look at all the books about plants, landscaping, gardening, flowers, herbs, trees and shrubs, vegetables---and then realize that it could take someone an entire lifetime reading just those books.

      If you live long enough, I'll give you a permission slip to visit the periodicals section....

      ...then math....

      Have you ever even thought to consider how much math goes into running a farm, or a vegetable market, or a food-processing center, or a seed company?  From the point-concept of just thinking about a specific plant organism to its final end result---whether it's on your table or at restaurant in town; in your veggie-bed on on a factory farm; in your front yard next to the porch or at the arboretum in the next state---the realm of plants employ not only general mathematics, but an entire gamut of skills that include pre-algebraic constructs, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, and introductory discrete theory concepts that serve as the basic introduction to quantum mathematics itself.

      ...and science, ....

      One word: BOTANY.

      ...history and geography, ....

      Let me know when history and geography have been subjected to enough "revision" so as to have eliminated the effects of food production on things like the social sciences.  The availability of food has given rise to entire social orders; crop failures have resulted in more famines than you can count on your fingers, toes, and IQ-points (ever hear of the "Dust Bowl" years in US History?  Desertification in East Africa?  The effects of the "Little Ice Age" on western Europe?), and the lack of food has wrought multiple wars in history.  Even in America, people have killed one another over the issue of food.

      ...music and art, ....

      What kind of a sheltered, hermit-like life have you leved so as to never have been exposed to:

      Mary, Mary,
      Quite contrary;
      How does your garden grow?

      How many art museums have you visited, or art books have you perused through, or art programs have you participated in, that do not include the use of plants as part of the rendering medium?

      Nothing on your "list" excludes gardening.  Nothing on your "list" exists without gardening.

      Not even something so allegedly precious as "rocket science"....

      A wildcat strike against a recalcitrant, apologetic Party is the order of the day. Every day.

      by Liberal Panzer on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 01:16:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Worried this Might be a Trojan Horse (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fabian, Bright, IreGyre

    I graduated from a rural high school where the rich elities tried to eliminate AP and even IB courses to replace it with vocational training that mainly emphasized giving kids farming skills. The school board was hijacked by wealthy horse owners who emphasized this sort of thing so that their kids whom they sent to private school wouldn't face competition from the public school kids in the area of academics.

  •  OK, but how do U define a "decade" ??? (0+ / 0-)

    are we talking about the dumbest thing since January of 2001

    or the dumbest thing in the past two weeks

    in the first category, you're up against the doughy pantload, princess pandora palin, the condliar rice, and a whole shitload of mindnumbing stupidity, so you ain't even in the ballpark there

    even in the second category; the dumbest thing in the past two weeks ???

    you've still got some strong competition

    didn't michael steele's book come out last week ???

    you had to read some of the quotes from that

  •  It'll all be better soon, once the electricity... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pletzs, DjW, sclminc, Rogneid, tobendaro

    ...shuts off. Besides water, the next-most-wrenching change to hit our children or especially grandchildren may be the end of 24-hour electricity. There hasn't been a major power plant built in the Northeast for 35 years, and it takes at least ten years from start to finish to get one up. Because of NIMBY, no one wants a new coal or nuclear plant, and no one is committing serious resources to anything else either. And our food transportation AND growing industries are totally strung out on foreign oil, tapped in countries where the vast majority of people hate our guts - and they already know how to live poor.

    Greater Las Vegas & the Phoenix area have been the boomiest growth areas in the U.S. for two decades - but they're 400 miles from any food AND any water. What in the hell do people really, really think is going to happen, here? Oh right - they jes don' think at all.... Growing your own food, at least knowing how, or at very least being walking distance from where some can be grown is going to matter.

    If there's any single industry that I would recommend a 12-year-old to train for, to be well-equipped to prosper in 21st-Century America, it would be in reclaiming suburban housing developments and converting them into smaller communal and single-family farms. This isn't going to be optional - somebody is going to have to do it.

    If you can't be a good example, at least be a horrible warning.

    by David Mason on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 02:22:22 AM PST

    •  Not building new power plants... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackSheep1

      does more to raise your rates than anything else.  The power companies can go an awfully long way by overstretching existing infrastructure -- importing power at a loss, running expensive peakers to churn out baseload, etc.

  •  Caitlin Flanagan is a twit. n/t (4+ / 0-)

    Forgive me for not being impressed by the transformation of "Change we can believe in" to "It could be worse."

    by expatjourno on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 02:22:41 AM PST

  •  I'd suggest that the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    docstymie, Bright

    actual article is well worth reading and makes a much more cogent case than this diary. You can abuse it/me as much as you want but personally I found that the article raised important critical points and that a simple and comprehensive rebuttal would be to show how such gardens actually improve some measurable aspects of educational achievement.

    Remember to kick it over.

    by sprogga on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 02:31:29 AM PST

    •  Do you teach? (5+ / 0-)

      Are you involved with the schools on any level?  I thought one of our biggest problems was the quality of our schools and our students education.  Innovation such as this gardening class, using dry and boring classroom work in an applicable situation as Jill demonstrates is an example of what we can be doing to teach more effectively.  However the biggest lesson to be learned here is that the student is able something successfully, something that was only a picture in a book, a vague reference that she only heard about before actually doing it.  Like much of a students world.  They hear of things, grownups tell them these things, they mean nothing to them.  Doing the activity successfully is a sadly missing element in our education system.  Nevermind that gardening is becoming more and more important in Americans lives from health to survival.  And lets completely ignore the fact that useful information being taught to students who are never gong to become nuclear scientists, lawyers or MDs, is the best thing we can do for the average student.

  •  The Human Mind is not a blank slate... (8+ / 0-)

    as the right wing public education reformers would have us all think. These are the insidious corporate shills who have perpetrated mass behaviorism in our schools so that children are forced to get second hand knowledge out of textbooks instead of first hand knowledge out of authentic experience.

    As a child in Northern Indiana, home to some of the most fertile land on Earth, I learned about biology, agriculture and plant science in the classroom and in the field.

    There is no comparison to the wonders of being outside, working with the soil, engaged in authentic experience embedding knowledge based on botany and all the related sciences into long term memory.

    Thanks so much Jill for bringing this article to our attention, which reflects a bigger educational problem in our schools, i.e. kids do not recieve authentic educational experiences as they should in our factory model schools and are force fed a steady diet of information processing experiences in the guise of non consensual reading assignments, text book seat work and worksheet after endless mind numbing worksheet in order to train children for stress enducing high stakes testing events.

    Kids don't remember test events or the data in them the way they remember knowledge gained through projects and experiences built around authentic experiences....This is a fact.

    Thanks Jill!

  •  I am curious as to when gardening (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rogneid, Bobs Telecaster

    became a controversial topic, to the point that people's emotions were highly exercised over it happening on school property, on school time.

    Perhaps people are exercised in general about schooling these days and any change is contentious.

    Personally I would not MAKE children work the land. Bad visual.

    But as an elective, sure. Why not?

    Out there are people plotting violence against your country...and you pick fights with bloggers. Nice priorities.

    by cskendrick on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 03:55:06 AM PST

    •  I think it is great for kids to know via hands on (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rogneid, Abra Crabcakeya, CoExistNow

      that we depend upon Mother Earth...not the store... for our food.  So I feel that nary a child should miss this experience.  

      "I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong." Richard Feynman

      by leema on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 05:36:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Bad visuals (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pletzs, BlackSheep1

      When I was in junior high, back in the last Ice Age, no one seemed to have a problem with kids doing manual labor: wood shop and metal shop for the boys, sewing and cooking (prune whip - eeek!) for the girls.

      While I would argue that the sex divisions were problematic (I hate to sew and grew up to be a metalsmith!), the hands-on experience wasn't. And it was not an elective. Do you think I would have chosen prune whip?

      The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

      by sidnora on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 06:38:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You're kidding, right? It's because Mrs. Obama (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackSheep1, moose67

      put in a vegetable garden in the White House, and talked about it, and invited school children to visit it.  

      And then there was the great Top Chef Cookoff using ingredients from the WH garden.

      President Obama even helped Bobby Flay grill.  Next thing you know, conservatives will say real men don't grill.  Conservatives just have a knee-jerk negative reaction to anything Obama.

    •  the gardens in Berkeley public schools aren't (0+ / 0-)

      slave-pits, and the Atlantic author's depiction of them as such is like much of the rest of the author's attitude: condescending illusion.

      Texas: Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Lady Bird & LBJ, Ann Richards, Sam Rayburn, Dan Rather, Ike, Sully Sullenberger, Lloyd Bentsen. It's No Bush League!

      by BlackSheep1 on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 12:37:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oh, NO! EVOLUTION!!!!!!!!!! (5+ / 0-)

    Be careful, or the alleged Christian wingnuts will want to ban gardening.

    (snark! That was a great diary.)

  •  Fragility of Life is a Key Lesson (9+ / 0-)

    We live in a typical suburban style neighborhood in the Heartland. We also grow a vegetable garden in our back yard every year. As of last year, we had expanded it to over 1,400 square feet.

    In addition to all the points made in this diary, there is a key spiritual and emotional element not discussed.

    Growing a garden makes you confront the fragility of life, and how quickly something growing and alive can be destroyed.

    Growing a garden is a constant battle with nature, from the creatures that crawl, to the creatures that fly, to the deer that jump your fence and help themselves to the nice buffet you have provided.

    There is not much with more impact on one's emotions than to have spent weeks or months nurturing a plant to maturity and fruition, and then coming out one morning and discovering it broken, or simply eaten and gone, the labor and devotion of all that time gone in a flash.

    It teaches a real lesson. In addition to the simple lesson that food doesn't just come from a can or bin or the cooler or freezer at the grocery store. It starts its journey somewhere far from that sterile environment.

    "We must become the change we want to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HeartlandLiberal on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 04:23:54 AM PST

  •  I did the backyard chicken coop thing...love it (7+ / 0-)

    We have 11 hens and 1 rooster which pretty much synchs up with the breeders claim to 95% correct gendering the chicks.

    At 7 months old we're getting 8-9 eggs a day from 5 hens so far. We feed them organic feed plus scrap from our garden and kitchen. They eat anything including sea weed my husband brings home form his surfing or fishing exploits.

    We have 2 each of 6 breeds we carefully selected and the rooster, well, he's just too popular to get rid of and no one has complained yet...

    Go for it. The eggs are divine. No one come to our house anymore without leaving with a dozen.

    HR 676 - Health care reform we can believe in - national single-payer NOW.

    by kck on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 04:48:44 AM PST

  •  Learning how the food chain works (9+ / 0-)

    is stupid, we all know how the food chain works, right?  It goes like this.

    - Guy buys a hamburger chain from Mom and Pop - Guy stiffs Mom and Pop and buys them out, and then franchises - Guy gets creatives to design a cute gnome or wizard to be the hamburger mascot - Guy throws all kinds of preservatives and filler into products to stretch out the food costs - Guy goes public on the stock exchange!

    Silly, silly schools - everybody knows where food comes from! It comes from.... you know... paper and plastic containers!

    If apes evolved from humans, why are there still humans?

    by Bobs Telecaster on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 04:58:37 AM PST

  •  University classes on picking Vegetables (7+ / 0-)

    Penn State has a whole program devoted to sustainable gardening. Professors and grad students sign up to be on waiting lists for plots in various community gardens. And I believe that Prince Charles is an avid garden. This whole thing is stupid. Teaching kids about growing vegetables is giving them a gif that will last a life time. This is offensive to every gardener in America, and there are a lot of us.

    You stand with Dean or crawl with Lieberman.

    by Grassroots Mom on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 05:15:35 AM PST

  •  thankfully my daughter's school feels just (7+ / 0-)

    the opposite, and has planted a terrific garden. The parents and kids kick in time during the summer, the faculty get to keep food if they wish, the rest during the summer goes to a local food bank, and they run a farmers market on fridays in the fall and the proceeds are reinvested in the garden and of course, the fresh produce is used in the cafeteria. It's SCIENCE for heavens'sake.

    "For the cost of deploying one soldier for one year, it is possible to build about 20 schools." N. Kristof

    by UTvoter on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 05:18:37 AM PST

    •  Science and math are built in to lessons (4+ / 0-)

      in a garden setting as well as more math and business skills in the farmers market.  Bringing in reading and history is easy as well.  Think about the history of immigration to America.  You can have kids read about the Irish potato famine.  Now imagine teaching them about it while they actually are learning how to grow potatoes and other foods.  When they know what goes into the production of those foods and how, even when you do everything you're supposed to, sometimes things just don't go right or disease attacks your plants.  You can teach about the Dustbowl and even create lessons that show the effects of the loss of topsoil on plants.  Lessons like that can engage kids in ways reading at their desks or doing math drills just don't.

      No one is saying stop all textbook and worksheet lessons in favor of gardening.  But the biggest battle for a teacher is engaging kids to want to learn.  If you can get them interested in learning you have won half the battle.  School gardens can do that.  They are not the only way to do so by any means, but they can be very effective if well run and thoughtfully integrated into the curriculum.  

  •  Last week someone made a comment that tipped (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, Floja Roja

    the balance in favor of raising a few latying hens , after two years of indecision. Gonna. Here is rural , plenty of space , and plenty of time available.

  •  Even if most students do not actually end up (4+ / 0-)

    growing food, they will come to learn something of the difference between fresh unaltered food and junk-in-a-box (even if it does not fully sink in until later in life). It is analagous to learning to play an instrument, but not becoming a musician (or even playing music later in life) -- learning how to play equips them to enjoy and understand music making their lives vastly richer.

    We have only just begun and none too soon.

    by global citizen on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 05:57:20 AM PST

  •  Notwithstanding all the valid points that have (6+ / 0-)

    been made about the positive benefits of gardening for children, there is the relevance to our food supply.

    40% of America's winter vegetables come from Florida. That crop has just been damaged by frost, and will impact market prices immediately. California's water table is stressed. Learning to grow food may be an imperative in our children's future.

    Early training is good from many perspectives. The article was stupid and ill-informed.

  •  I have to wonder... (5+ / 0-)

    ...what kind of background Ms. Flanagan comes from?  Her patronizing account of "traveling to Compton" (she lives almost 20 miles from there!  Whoop dee fucking doo, she's a certified expert on poverty in America!), provides a major clue.  Ah, but like others of her ilk, she probably believes she's totally and completely "self-made".

    Her elitism shines through quite clear, in so many ways -

    Why not make them build the buses that will take them to and from school, or rotate in shifts through the boiler room?

    Oh, so people who work with their hands are uneducated goons wasting their lives?  The people who build her vehicles (limousines?) have obviously done quite a good job, since she's still around to this very day and able to puke her nonsense onto the pages of national magazines.  Why doesn't Ms. Flanagan try to take a job at an airplane painting contractor tomorrow, or become a pipefitter?  Let's see how "brilliant" she really is.  My hunch is that she couldn't tell a phillips head from Phyllis Diller's hairdo, though.

    She's made it clear throughout the article that she's a charter school hack.  I could get started on those fucking things, but then I'd never finish typing this comment...

    I can't believe I read the whole article.  I believe I've had my daily recommended Arrogance and Stupid Doses for the next three weeks, in just one sitting by reading Caitlin Flanagan.  Maybe she can market a vitamin along those lines?

    We'll always have Newark...

    by JayinPortland on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 06:14:58 AM PST

  •  By no means is that the most idiotic thing... (0+ / 0-)

    ...I'll read today, much less in a decade.  I don't agree with it, because I agree with you, but it's a credible argument worth making and worth countering.  

    Enrich your life with adverbs!

    by Rich in PA on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 06:20:01 AM PST

  •  most idiotic thing i've read this decade (0+ / 0-)

    and the decade is still young

    "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
    --Tom Harkin

    by TrueBlueMajority on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 06:20:19 AM PST

  •  The decade is very young. Give it time. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    satanicpanic

    He who distinguishes the true savor of food can never be a glutton, he who does not cannot be otherwise. - Thoreau

    by the fan man on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 06:25:09 AM PST

  •  you hardly need to defend gardening (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Floja Roja, Deep Harm, satanicpanic

    some things are self evident. Tolstoy kept gardens, so did Monet, Rodin and Picasso and really anybody who was anybody in the western canon. The concepts of nature and food and art being intertwined are really as old as recorded human thought, so don't be troubled by these increasingly ignorant and unread right wing philistines. Some things are so stupid they warrant no response.

    Everything passes, everything changes, just do what you think you should do-B.D

    by defndr on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 06:28:15 AM PST

  •  Hey Jill. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Floja Roja

    I put your friend in touch with someone who could give him some info; I asked my friend to cc you, but I'm out of the loop. I hope that what he had to say proves useful. The South Bronx is not sunny CA, and we've got the Bloomberg Dept. of Ed. to contend with, too.

    Great diary!

    The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

    by sidnora on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 06:32:45 AM PST

  •  Knowing where food comes from... (0+ / 0-)

    and how it is produced leads to better consumers who have an appreciation and respect for food. Which hopefully means that you don't waste it, abuse it, misuse it, or take it for granted. I learned more in the garden about science than I did with my lousy science teacher.

    Mother nature is the best teacher. Disregard her lessons at your peril.  

    Fools who don't understand that deserve to eat whatever the corporations feed them.

    Don't think for a moment that power concedes. Obama

    by weegeeone on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 06:34:25 AM PST

  •  I tried to read the article- gave up. (0+ / 0-)

    Just too fucking stupid.  Gardening is bad?  It's part of some elitist program?   I just do not get these kooks.

  •  Oh, come on! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TiaRachel, hazzcon

    We ALL know that food comes from the grocery store. It appears by magic in the aisles and is brought to us by Monsanto, ADM, and Cargill. Kids can get close to their food by investing in mutual funds that buy shares in such companies.

    What the hell do we care about the "environment?" Meat comes in ready to cook packages, made nice and red by a spring-fresh burst of carbon monoxide. And look at all the food that comes in nice, easy-to-bag cardboard boxes!

    Our connection to the planet and to one another could not possibly be better expressed than that! The notion that anything of real value could be learned by examining nature is crazy on the face of it. And it isn't just food. Nobody ever learned anything by trying things to see what happens. I mean batteries come from the hardware store, not from people sitting in rooms playing with metals and paper. Electronics come from Apple and Sony, not from someone shining a light on charged foils and wondering why they stop repelling one another.

    And don't get me started on medicine, chemistry, physics, anthropology, and for that matter, poetry, painting, sculpture, and music. These are all things provided by benificient corporations for us to consume. Individual human creativity and intelligence obviously have nothing to do with our quality and life, and giving our children an opportunity to, ahem, cultivate them is clearly the biggest waste of time imaginable. Surely they should be taught the really important things, like, if they are white and born to college educated parents, the time-value of money and how to invest, and if they are any other color, or born to parents without college degrees, how to color inside the lines and join the Army.

    Enough of this tree-hugging hippie crap, people!

  •  "Robbed"? Compared to ???? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TiaRachel, Catte Nappe, hazzcon

    I had a wonderful primary school education - in a public school, where I developed excellent skills in reading, arithmetic and other key skills.  We always had some kind of biological project going on - planting trees, growing flowers on the windowsill, trekking through natural areas, and marveling over classroom  guppies, mice and bunnies.  I would have been thrilled to have a class vegetable garden.

    Those projects enabled us to make the connection between abstract concepts and concrete examples.  They enabled us to burn off excess energy so that we could work quietly on math and grammar.  They taught us about reproduction in the only way authorities would allow.  They made science a living, breathing thing that intrigued us as numbers and words on a page never could.  

    Those hands-on lessons unquestionably influenced my decision to become a a scientist, although the decision was delayed by attitudes of the day that did not encourage young women to think about careers in science.  Come to think of it, the groups that predicted failure if women went into space sound a lot like the ones predicting failure if children learn about gardening.  That brings to mind another lesson from my schooldays:  the disappearance of dinosaurs.

  •  If learning how to produce food for yourself (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, Rogneid

    is a waste of time, then I guess every home ec class needs to go,too.  Same type of thing as far as I can tell.  

    "If you go all day without hitting or biting anyone, it was a good day." Patrick, age 4

    by Meggie on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 06:43:54 AM PST

  •  Jill...please... (0+ / 0-)

    Are you really upset about an article slamming a school garden written by someone who has probably never eaten a vegetable in his/her life?  Who has never had their hands muddied by the earth?  Who doesn't care what's in or on their deli sandwich as long as it's 5 inches high, has the coleslaw on top, and very little ice in their diet Cokes?  Do you care about a person that has no idea how it feels to sit in a garden and smell the earth, feel the sun, and gaze at how blue the sky is?????  These writers are educated at the highest levels for God's sake...they know-it-all....LOL.  

  •  Great diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TiaRachel

    I can't believe some people are actually defending the Flanagan's piece.  Getting the kids interested in the entire ecology of growing and consuming is hardly antithetical to providing the mindset and interest that carries over to language and mathematical literacy.  Setting up as an either/or proposition is providing a strawman for an ugly argument.  It's for the lack of such programs that parents who can  pull their kids out of public school.  

    Life is good. Injustice? Not so much.

    by westyny on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 07:00:40 AM PST

  •  besides, you can't EAT algebra. (3+ / 0-)

    Just sayin'.

    Right-wingers are morons.  You can learn a hell of a lot of stuff from gardening, and one of the best way to teach kids is to involve them in something, rather than just lecture to them.  The right-wingers are probably scared because the kids might pick up something about evolution...

    "Glenn Beck ends up looking like a fat, stupid child. His face should be wearing a chef's hat on the side of a box of eclairs. " - Doug Stanhope

    by Front Toward Enemy on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 07:09:33 AM PST

  •  Certain groups of folks..... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    westyny, Catte Nappe, Rogneid

    want our children sitting in a classroom on their hands, with their mouths shut, eyes forward, listening to some teacher drone on about this or that.  It's proven that students, especially boys, do better by moving around, touching things, experiencing instead of being told, yada, yada, yada.  Hands on work and practice are the only ways to really learn anything.  It just takes more work and patience to teach this way...therefore it's of the Devil......  

  •  Two words: (well, one name, really) (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    by foot, TiaRachel, Catte Nappe

    Gregor Mendel.

    Let's go back to E Pluribus Unum

    by hazzcon on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 07:15:46 AM PST

  •  I can't think of a better way to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rogneid

    incorporate science and lessons on sustainability than a school garden. I also think its a great way to get kids out of a classroom where they are often bored to death. The article is idiocy. Tipped and Recommended.

  •  The best medicine for this kind (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    by foot, Amber6541

    of crap being published is to help plant a school garden. My new job after being out of work for months is marketing and business development for HG Edible Landscapes in Encinitas CA. We are starting school gardens all around San Diego County. We just secured our first community garden in a North County Homeowners Assoc on a common area that was just grass!

    Plant your seeds watch them grow!1

    The Republican party is sabotaging America's recovery for political gain.

    by calichristi on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 07:31:26 AM PST

  •  But if we teach kids about food, chemistry, (0+ / 0-)

    and science

    how will we convince them to eat manufactured pseudo-food later in life? Come on, Jill! Think ahead!

  •  Technically We're Still in the Last Year (2+ / 0-)

    Of the "2001-2010" Decade.  So this is actually a pretty prestigious honor.

  •  Double dig, add compost, mulch heavily. (0+ / 0-)

    For a new spring garden, in summer, save your grass clippings, and put them in a pile.  In fall add any leaves you have raked up to the pile.  Anything green or that used to be green add to the pile.  If you want to speed things up, you can turn the pile to mix the ingredients, but just letting it sit is good enough.  If you have horse friends, ask them if you can come by with a pick-up truck when they muck out the barn, and get some manure laden straw and hay from the barn.  That's great to add to the pile, but if you are worried about the smell don't do it.  The pile will probably invite some bugs and worms.  If you see birds, particularly robins, jumping around in the pile stirring it up, you will know you have a crop of bugs and worms.

    In October or November prepare the dirt where you plan to garden by double digging.  This involves using a shovel or spading fork, elbow grease, and your back. Start a trench one blade depth, Remove that dirt to the side, and dig one blade depth again in the same trench.  Add a shovel full of compost, silage [peanut silage is great for this, even if it's totally dried out], leaves, and put the first shovel full back into the trench and mix.  Repeat until the entire garden bed is double dug and compost is added throughout.  Top off with a layer of fall leaves if you have them.  Then wait till spring planting time.  That's why I said it is not necessary to turn you compost pile, as you are going to let the stuff break down where it will be used - in the garden.

    Once you plant, and your seeds have germinated, mulch heavily.  If you are using starter plants, mulch immediately.  Hay or straw at least six inches thick is good.  Wood chips are not so good, but sawdust may be okay depending on what's in your dirt to start with.  Hay/straw will allow for water to easily flow through to the soil, and prevent evaporation from being too rapid, thus reducing water requirements.  It will also cut down on the need to weed, as the mulch will block out the sun and prevent weed seeds from germinating. It also acts as a great insulator, preventing the soil/plants from becoming too hot or too cold, although extreme temps will need additional measures

    After your garden is finished for the season, turn the mulch into the soil using your spading fork, top off with fall leaves, and wait till spring.  Rotate your planting plan next spring.  This will prevent the soil from becoming depleted by the needs of one crop.

    You can also rotate the plots in the garden between spring, summer, and fall plants, to extend the productivity life of the garden.  But plan a period of rest, for yourself and for the garden.

    Happy gardening.

  •  CEO of a school? WTF! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayinPortland

    Guess she doesn't see the irony of the corporatization of the school system when she writes that school gardens are bad.  

    The president is not a king. I'm glad Obama is not acting like one.

    by tarminian on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 08:27:26 AM PST

  •  does this reek of racism? (5+ / 0-)

    IMAGINE THAT AS a young and desperately poor Mexican man, you had made the dangerous and illegal journey to California to work in the fields with other migrants. There, you performed stoop labor, picking lettuce and bell peppers and table grapes; what made such an existence bearable was the dream of a better life. You met a woman and had a child with her, and because that child was born in the U.S., he was made a citizen of this great country. He will lead a life entirely different from yours; he will be educated. Now that child is about to begin middle school in the American city whose name is synonymous with higher learning, as it is the home of one of the greatest universities in the world: Berkeley. On the first day of sixth grade, the boy walks though the imposing double doors of his new school, stows his backpack, and then heads out to the field, where he stoops under a hot sun and begins to pick lettuce.

    this is the first paragraph from the article the OP cited. or class snobbery? both, i think.
    there's no explicit use of racial terms, but this form of condescension and the advocating of assimilation is racist, IMHO.

    If God didn't want me to believe Creationists are stupid, why did s/he create Sarah Palin?

    by whataretheysmoking on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 08:37:14 AM PST

    •  Condescending and ignorant (3+ / 0-)

      I'm not sure I would call it racist, but the author seemingly (1) has no idea that Mexico has an adult literacy rate of 92%, according to Unicef (and a good many of the illegal Mexican immigrants I've met over the years have struck me as well-enough educated except for their knowledge of English); and (2) feels that learning how to grow one's own food is beneath better-educated people, presumably because she has done little more than water house plants throughout her sheltered life. (By this reasoning, it is perhaps an insult to teach black kids to clean their rooms because so many black people, through the years, have struggled to earn a living as others' housekeepers.)

      I read Flanagan's entire article and appreciated her point that cash-strapped school systems should focus foremost on core academic skills. And I guess I wonder if she's echoing the sentiments of some of the immigrants she has met. I certainly know people in my own community who are extremely impatient with the waste of time and money on "useless" classes such as music, Latin, French, and art; no reason that some immigrants might have the same impatience with anything outside of the 3Rs.

  •  I'm reading (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TiaRachel, Amber6541
    "Guns Germs and Steel" and Diamond makes a point to discuss the incredible amount of knowledge it takes to become a farmer. And let's not forget, the entire field of genetics was founded by a man who was, essentially, farming.

    Of course, it needs to all be put into context. And some teachers are better than others. But without "desperate daily scrabble to wrest sustenance from dirt", there would not have been those "cultural achievements" to speak of.

  •  Another source of information on gardening (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow, Amber6541

    with young people is the Junior Master Gardener program that apparently was developed in the mid-west as an offshoot of County Extension 4-H and Master Gardener programs. Their web site is: http://www.jmgkids.us/. Check with your local County Extension Office to see if they have an active group or start one of your own

  •  another good diary thanks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow
  •  the article was really a reactionary two-fer (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow

    if you step back a little bit and put the article into the context of the overall ideological struggle that's going on for the soul of America and it's future, the author makes two points for the bad guys:

    1. foodies and gardens are bad, leave the groceries to monsanto & and the meat packers.
    1. another attempt to demean education so the public perceives it as a failed social welfare program.

    look around folks! there's a WAR going on against social justice and democracy and its enemies are successfully using the mass media to make their case.

    Thank you very much for all that you do Jill!

  •  I'll I got in elementary school was a bean sprout (0+ / 0-)

    ... a plastic bag, a brown paper towel, and some water.

    We watched the sprouts grow over the course of a few weeks... then planted them.

    A whole Garden would have incredible, as opposed to our gravel playground.

    (wow I sound like Grampa Simpson and I'm only in my thirties)

    •  I obviously didn't learn to type either = "All" (0+ / 0-)

      All I got...

      not

      I'll I got in elementary school was a bean sprout

    •  My son's class did that in 2nd grade last year (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jethrock

      They were all making pets of their sprouts (in plastic bags taped to their desks). Some of them live with huge vegetable gardens, some of them had never seen anything grow before and were astonished.

      "Civility costs nothing and buys everything." - Mary Wortley Montagu

      by sarac on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 11:42:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wasn't dissing bean sprouts... (0+ / 0-)

        A whole Garden would have incredible, as opposed to our gravel playground.

        I think I was probably in Second Grade when we did that. And I still remember.

        But an entire garden. Now that's something super cool.

        Best

  •  Ahhh... the fantasies of the haute-bourgeois (0+ / 0-)

    Of which Jill is a card carrying member.

    But although garden-based curricula are advanced as a means of redressing a wide spectrum of poverty’s ills, the animating spirit behind them is impossible to separate from the haute-bourgeois predilections of the Alice Waters fan club, as best expressed in one of her most oft-repeated philosophies: "Gardens help students to learn the pleasure of physical work." Does the immigrant farm worker dream that his child will learn to enjoy manual labor, or that his child will be freed from it? What is the goal of an education, of what we once called "book learning"? These are questions best left unasked when it comes to the gardens.

    That's mighty white of ya. Here is the question that Jill doesn't ask:

    Here is the essential question we must ask about the school gardens: What evidence do we have that participation in one of these programs—so enthusiastically supported, so uncritically championed—improves a child’s chances of doing well on the state tests that will determine his or her future (especially the all-important high-school exit exam) and passing Algebra I, which is becoming the make-or-break class for California high-school students? I have spent many hours poring over the endless research on the positive effects of garden curricula, and in all that time, I have yet to find a single study that suggests classroom gardens help students meet the state standards for English and math.

    The authors are correct. Children should be at their desks learning not in the dirt picking vegetables.

    There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain. - R.D. Laing

    by brenda on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 10:18:48 AM PST

    •  respectfully (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose

      This whitey thinks your statement is wide of the point by miles. Sure, Algebra and "book learning" are important. But do you really think a complete education consists of just learning to pass exams? Is it wrong to round out curriculum with other activities that engage kids in other areas? It's not like they're being dragged out of the classroom for two thirds of their school day to pick lettuces.

      I have yet to find a single study that suggests classroom gardens help students meet the state standards for English and math.

      I don't think anyone claims that gardening programs help kids with math. It's not about that. We hear concern about our kids not meeting standards, but we hear simultaneously about curriculum that narrows kids' learning experiences to being drilled in narrow, unengaging and depersonalized activity. There are plenty of studies that show that kids who are engaged in their school day do better than kids who aren't. Are you really suggesting that an hour every other day working with the earth, engaging their hands, minds and senses, decreases the quality of their education?

      Remember: It's nothing more than the biggest heist in human history.

      by DjW on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 10:58:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The article makes a specific claim (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rossl

        That in fact students do better at non garden schools.

        "Where do Berkeley’s African American and Hispanic middle-schoolers do well? At a gardenless charter school called Cal Prep, where 92 percent of the students are black or Latino, where the focus is on academic achievement, and where test scores have been rising steadily."

        "But do you really think a complete education consists of just learning to pass exams?"

        No I don't, I'd like to scrap NCLB and properly fund schools to teach.

        "I don't think anyone claims that gardening programs help kids with math."

        The diary makes a direct claim that they do.

        "Are you really suggesting that an hour every other day working with the earth, engaging their hands, minds and senses, decreases the quality of their education?"

        There appears to be some evidence from the article that it does. Gardening should be treated like any other extra curricular activity.

        ...until our kids have a decent chance at mastering the essential skills and knowledge that they will need to graduate from high school, we should devote every resource and every moment of their academic day to helping them realize that life-changing goal. Otherwise, we become complicit— through our best intentions—in an act of theft that will not only contribute to the creation of a permanent, uneducated underclass but will rob that group of the very force necessary to change its fate.

        There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain. - R.D. Laing

        by brenda on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 11:51:30 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Charters tend to do better than public (0+ / 0-)

          schools in many areas but that has NOTHING to do with time spent in a garden, it is the class size and every other good thing that Charters bring.

          You cannot compare the two schools unless they are both charters and both the same quality. UGH.

        •  Sure Cal Prep kids do well... (0+ / 0-)

          but it ain't magic.  Any school that gets to cherry pick its students is going to have better results.  And Cal Prep admits it picks kids whose parents are committed to having their kids succeed:
          "Parent involvement is an essential component of success", from http://berkeley.edu/...

          It's great that Cal Prep gives kids who have supportive parents a shot at a superior education.  But a lot of parents don't care enough to get involved, and without that involvement the Cal Prep model breaks down.  Not to mention the fact that they use Berkley students to tutor the kids...not all of us have top-notch universities stocked with brilliant kids who need internship hours right next door.

          Gardens, on the other hand, are simple, cheap, can be planted almost anywhere, and don't require parental support.

          •  "92 percent of the students are black or Latino" (0+ / 0-)

            Wow! That's sure is some cherry pickin'!

            There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain. - R.D. Laing

            by brenda on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 01:37:54 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  OMG do you realize what you're implying? (0+ / 0-)

              The mind reels.  Take a look at the article that Russycle helpfully linked.  Are you at all familiar with the public school situation in the East Bay?  

              I'm really hoping you didn't mean to imply that if a charter school could have their pick of students they certainly wouldn't end up with all those . . you know . . . brown ones.

              ....but it's hard for me to read it any other way.  Help me out here.

              Universal Health Care - it's coming, but not soon enough!

              by DrFood on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 02:10:20 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  That's exactly what I'm implying (0+ / 0-)

                Not because I am racist, but because our society is. If I were starting a charter school and I wanted the very best academic performance and could have my pick I would choose from the wealthy upper/middle class demographic and my school would therefore be almost completely white. Then I would cherry pick the best black and latino students I could find and sprinkle them around for flavor.

                That fact that a school composed of over 90% students of color is none-the-less academically superior to a garden school does tell me that you don't HAVE to have a garden based curricula in order to succeed. Especially since I'm sure a significant percent of those students come from poor and disadvantaged communities.

                There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain. - R.D. Laing

                by brenda on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 04:52:08 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  There's no hard data on what works (0+ / 0-)

          ....except that with talented and driven teachers/administrators, kids do better.  The charter school would not fall apart if the kids spent an hour and a half a week in a garden learning how things grow and where food comes from.  Could you possibly be arguing that it it the LACK of a garden that drives the charter school's success?

          I'm not an education expert, but as a pediatrician I have an interest in the topic, and there are no simple answers.  Success stories tend to be anecdotal, not systematic.  This teacher inspires kids with Shakespeare, that teacher with music, this one with caring for living creatures.  If it was a simple matter to bring disadvantaged kids up to speed we wouldn't be arguing about school gardens, we'd just be doing that one thing that's been proven to work.  There is no such thing.

          As a pediatrician I can state that a child with ADD or ADHD is much more likely to retain concepts learned in the course of hands-on activity than concepts presented "at the desk."

          Universal Health Care - it's coming, but not soon enough!

          by DrFood on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 02:06:02 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  learning at their desks? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, rossl

      And just what would you like them to be learning?  How to read and write so that someday they can be a food scientist learning how to twist genetically modified corn and soybeans into the next addictive snack food sensation?

      Ever heard of Will Allen and Growing Power?  Is he a member of the "haute bourgeois"?

      Take if from a member of the redneck proletariat - food production arguably affects human health, the environment, and the economy in more negative and positive ways than any other activity on the planet.

      Understanding it should be considered as basic and necessary as writing, reading, and math.

      •  They should become whatever they want (0+ / 0-)

        I'd like kids to learn real science and not the pretend science from the Left or the Right. I'd like them to think critically and not spout empty ideology from the Left or the Right. And I'd like them to learn what it means to be human by studying great literature.

        They don't need to be fucking gardeners.

        "Understanding it should be considered as basic and necessary as writing, reading, and math."

        No, it shouldn't. Because if you can't read or write or calculate you sure as hell won't ever understand food production or it's socio-economic impact on society.

        There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain. - R.D. Laing

        by brenda on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 11:58:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  sounding a bit haute-bourgeois? (0+ / 0-)

          They don't need to be fucking gardeners.

          Is this why the article resonated with you?

          Do you have the same apparent contempt for "menial" labor that the author does?

          •  I grew up on a farm (0+ / 0-)

            and the fuck out as fast as I could. And yes I have have a "contempt" for labor. That's why god gave us washing machines, dryers and power tools.

            There is nothing liberating or ennobling about bending over in the hot sun picking cotton.

            There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain. - R.D. Laing

            by brenda on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 12:33:41 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  There COULD be honor in picking grapes if it paid (0+ / 0-)

              That's why god gave us washing machines, dryers and power tools.

              Did God also give us an abundance of cheap immigrant labor so that you could have a glass of wine while enjoying great literature and benefitting from your improved economnic status?

              More and more I am wondering if I should trust people who have a livid fear of dirt under their fingernails or a little manure on their shoes.

              But, then again, I've never picked cotton.  

              •  Neither have I (0+ / 0-)

                Which if course wasn't the point. Nor do I have a fear of getting dirty, I've been knee deep in pig shit and cow manure and I can castrate a pig or butcher a chicken if I need to.

                But go ahead and keep projecting you fantasied image of who I am. It sure beats having to actually think doesn't it?

                There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain. - R.D. Laing

                by brenda on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 01:35:38 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  It's a learning lab, so they are not (0+ / 0-)

          f-ing gardners.

          And obesity is America's number one health problem and these kids are at risk. they should understand what real food is so when they graduate, they can get a non-gardener job and not be totally unhealthy!

          •  Try actually reading the article (0+ / 0-)

            Once, just once I'd like it if people here could actually read.

            Low income Americans and their children are not obese because they don't know who to grow tomatoes. From the article you didn't read:

            "The suicidal dietary choices of so many poor people are the result of a problem, not the problem itself. The solution lies in an education that will propel students into a higher economic class, where they will live better and therefore eat better."

            There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain. - R.D. Laing

            by brenda on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 12:38:25 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The article is faulty at its core (0+ / 0-)

              On the first day of sixth grade, the boy walks though the imposing double doors of his new school, stows his backpack, and then heads out to the field, where he stoops under a hot sun and begins to pick lettuce.

              It depicts a scene that is more fiction than reality. It makes it sound like the kids are used as child labor, for crying out loud. The whole tone of the article is seething with contempt and full of misinformation. It's a hit piece.

              The point of the Edible Schoolyard program is to connect the kids with food at the source -- with the earth -- so they gain firsthand insight into how the food cycle affects them. They're outside for a few hours a week. They grow food and complementary crops, and they get to eat what comes out of that garden. It's an object lesson on what real food is, and how it relates to maintaining the environment and a healthy food source. It also provides insight into making better nutritional choices with simple means. People get hung up on the Alice Waters connection, but the hangup ignores the actual curriculum.

              I'm sorry. Striving for economic betterment is all good, but the claim that this program sabotages that end is laughable.

              Remember: It's nothing more than the biggest heist in human history.

              by DjW on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 01:30:43 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Really??? (0+ / 0-)

                "It makes it sound like the kids are used as child labor, for crying out loud."

                As I understand it their entire school lunch menu is stocked with food from the gardens. They aren't just growing a couple of tomato plants. They are feeding the entire school.

                The whole point of having a society based on the division of labor is so, at the very least, our kids don't have to pick lettuce and can instead concentrate on learning.

                "Striving for economic betterment is all good, but the claim that this program sabotages that end is laughable."

                Can you point me to a diary where this is backed up with facts? Cause it sure as hell isn't this diary. This one is entirely fact-free and packed full of Gaia Earth Goddess wackery.

                There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain. - R.D. Laing

                by brenda on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 01:46:30 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Correction (0+ / 0-)

                  The entire school gets to eat food that is grown there. The "entire school lunch menu" is not "stocked with food from the gardens" in the sense that it produces enough volume to, by itself, feed 1200 kids every day. Some is included, along with other food from other sources. The garden is just one, though the kids seem to like it enormously.

                  I don't see where the claim that this program diminishes the quality of education there is backed up with facts either. There's a correlation that could easily be explained by any other factors, but is heavily implied in the article without anything more than innuendo. As another commenter mentioned, comparing King to CA Prep is not a good comparison whatsoever. This is a public school which -- granted, in Berkeley, which has higher property taxes than most other cities in the area and therefore gives more to the schools -- faces the same structural challenges that all public schools in California face. The notion that Prep does better than King because they don't have a garden program is utterly without factual merit.

                  The program is loved by the parents and loved by the kids. Both this article and your comments are painting a scenario -- of kids being robbed of an opportunity to learn meaningful information, driven to spend precious learning hours feeding the masses -- is a gigantic misrepresentation of the reality there.

                  I guess I don't have links to send, I just have my own firsthand experience with it. My kids go there, and I've been around the program for some time. I'd love to let it have a chance to work, instead of being shot down by someone with a chip on her shoulder (the Atlantic author, not you).

                  Remember: It's nothing more than the biggest heist in human history.

                  by DjW on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 02:15:15 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

  •  Nice work growing brains and fruit. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow

    But many of those programs go into very little of the vast knowledge alluded to above. It's a shame. While the rhetoric of the Atlantic piece is insulting, they are right in that the programs often serve as an inadequate replacement for instruction in many schools; often with the program being tantamount to busywork.

    That said, some local children involved in these programs at magnet schools and a few more mainstream public schools seem to have learned quite a bit. This isn't the kind of curriculum that can be half-assed, unless it is a substitute for recreational time. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case entirely too often.

    Also,the kids would do better for instructors to foster the growth of plants that don't die within a month or two. Seeing a little girl cry over her dead plant, because it was apparently planted in the wrong season, was too sad.

  •  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TiaRachel, Catte Nappe

    This makes me so angry. My kids go to King Middle School have had the educational pleasure of spending time working in that very garden, and it's one of the most rewarding experiences they've had. It's a public school with a diverse urban population, with many low-income students who otherwise likely wouldn't get any exposure to the physical, mental, and spiritual rewards that gardening and eating fresh, organic produce can bring.

    I also worked for over a decade with Alice Waters and it pains me to see the slams she takes in various media for what she does. It's all based on complete ignorance of what she actually espouses. Wholesome, healthy eating does not have to be an elitist, expensive affair. It's not about enticing people into fancy restaurants. It's about helping your children enjoy eating healthy, honest food. She takes some real garbage hits for this.

    But to single out the Edible Schoolyard project for this kind of slander is beyond the pale and just blows my mind. This is the kind of education our kids need to help our culture and society make it through this century. The idea that this stuff is elitist or educationally superfluous or -- good god -- exploitative reflects unfathomable ignorance. Idiotic bullshit.

    Grrrr.

    Remember: It's nothing more than the biggest heist in human history.

    by DjW on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 10:25:13 AM PST

  •  Wonderful, wonderful diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sclminc, ridemybike

    Nothing is more engaging for a person, young or old, than watching things grow under your care.  I only wish I'd had more gardening experience growing up.  This article makes me giddy for spring.

    And of course, neo-cons hate everything that's truly wholesome and nourishing, so no surprise there.

    Thank you for such a well-written look at what actually goes into cultivating and understanding a garden.

    Love is all you need.

    by sea bear on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 10:52:20 AM PST

  •  good (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1

    I think this is a great idea.  Children should have at least a basic understanding of our core life sustaining services.  Truely understanding where food comes from, where water comes from, where electricity comes from, and how medical/emergency services are provided should be considered as important as government and history classes.  Understanding how the world operates is the only way to know how you want to do your part.

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