Our garden at Myers Middle School is fairly hidden behind the school building. The new garden at Albany High School, however, is about as visible as can be. It’s just inside the school property from North Main Avenue. It’s just across the interior road from soccer fields, where hundreds and hundreds of families gather Saturday mornings in the spring and fall. We’re in full view of passers-by on Main. And most of the high school faculty and staff drive right by the six raised beds on their way in in the morning and out in the afternoon.
This adds a dynamic to school gardening that we haven’t had much experience with at Myers: Observation by the public (including above-mentioned faculty and staff members), followed by comment, some along the lines of, “Hey, what’s the matter with you guys? You know you let that beautiful lettuce flower without harvesting it.”
So that prompts a thought: We’re not in this for the sake of production. Sure it would be nice to grow as much as we can. And the more we grow, the more we can create opportunities for students to try unfamiliar tastes or just new varieties of old favorites. But more importantly, this is about teaching and learning. This is especially about teaching and learning through hands-on activity, experience and one of the really, really, really important life experiences – making mistakes. It’s a bit of a different approach than much of the classroom world we’re familiar with.
And by the way, we got some teaching and learning mileage out of the aforementioned lettuce, which really was beautiful. We collected seeds after flowers dried up. We’ll plant them. And we are a couple steps closer to sharing richly what we know about a plant’s lifecycle.