By Fredrica Syren:
I don’t know about you, but in my experience, classrooms in general are never great looking and tend to be boring. But imagine a classroom filled with edible plants. Now that’s a classroom I would look forward to going to every day. Teacher Stephen Ritz has made that a reality at Discovery High School in New York’s deprived South Bronx. He established a project of growing plants and vegetables in the school. Ritz’s venture now has become the Green Bronx Machine that now helps other schools in the U.S. create their own agriculture program in an effort to teach children about healthy eating and environmental awareness.
The project began when, in an effort to beautify their neighborhood and bring communities together, the school created landscape gardens in abandoned lots. They then began beautifying the their school by planting and growing food indoors and in vertical planters all around the school.
The kids have really responded to the program. Before, this school had a very low graduation rate; now attendance has increased from 43% to 93%. The kids really feel love by caring for the plants, and feel responsible for them. As a result, their view of where food comes from has changed, which is a very good thing since the majority of kids in this district have horrible diets.
Ritz, who began this journey by funding everything out of his own pocket, is determined to put plants in every classroom in New York City. He is a true believer that, if we teach children about nature, they will learn to nurture.