August 2009 001

I’m working with a charter high school on creating a community garden. I started last week working with the students and it was a culturally clueless experience. We are going to lasagna garden their small plot of land because at the moment, it is compacted dirt and unwilling to grow even tumbleweeds. When trying to explain the layers behind lasagna gardening, the kids looked at me like I was from the moon.

Finally, a boy in the back piped up. “Like enchiladas?”

“Yes, like enchiladas. So the cardboard base would be our tortillas, the shredded paper our shredded cheese, the coffee grounds our ground beef, etc…”

A light bulb turned on and they not only got it, they were — against all teenage instincts — a little excited.

August 2009 002

“Could we grow bananas?”

“No, guey, let’s grow ground beef.”

{I’m not kidding. They wanted to grow ground beef. }

“I want to grow flowers,” whispered the aptly named Dahlia in the back of the room.

“Well, how about spicy food? We could grow salsa.” Now I really had their attention.

I realized I needed new teaching techniques if I was going to make this project work. I hit the library and checked out a handful of books with basic elementary education plant experiments included.

August 2009 003

We are going to start by building our garden enchilada tomorrow. Ideally, we’ll plant vegetables for a salsa garden. They were even more excited by the possibility of making, canning and selling the salsa to fund other projects. I knew when to shut up and not ask about what that funding really would be used for. One step at a time.

I am excited to see them tomorrow and to dig into what could become a great community project.