By Katrina Schwartz
It’s not unusual for school programs to be cut — even successful and popular ones. Often the program disappears into memory. But sometimes school supporters can rally to keep it going. At Willard Middle School in Berkeley, California, parents and the community mobilized to raise money to keep alive a cooking and gardening program at the school after its budget was cut. But the school didn’t stop there — its teachers have tasked students with turning the program into a successful small business, generating revenues to support the program. Students are learning by doing, even when that means making mistakes that cost the program money, all for the purposes of learning.
Two years ago, the Berkeley Unified School District learned that the federal funding stream it used to pay for a nationally recognized cooking and gardening program in its K-12 schools would disappear. With more than a decade to build on lessons learned, the program was adept at teaching nutrition, along with academic concepts like plant botany, cooking math and journal reflections embedded in hands-on learning. Students learned about the vegetables they grew and shared tips on preparation with their parents when they went home. Other classroom teachers even incorporated elements of gardening into their instruction.