Many of us have seen school gardens promoted by teachers, non-profit organizations and community groups but are those spaces ever really used effectively and do they focus on providing a student-centered space dedicated to promoting student voices and democratic socialism? Do school gardens ever really play an integral role in combating food deserts and other social justice oriented issues in regard to food scarcity in urban centers? Do school gardens provide students a space to practice the skills related to gardening and relating it to movement, physical activity, health, and wellness? Are school gardens used as a place to inspire some local activism in regard to making sure people have access to quality food? I have no idea but I’m in the process of figuring it out and how to use my school garden as a place to provide an answer to those questions.
My school is located in the Northeast Section of Philadelphia and we have a unique opportunity where we have unused space with trees and grass. It is truly a rarity to have the space to plant a large garden with the potential for a small fruit orchard in Philadelphia. I plan to utilize the space to create an opportunity for our students to authentically engage in the democratization of the garden to fight the atomization of society.
Atomization is the social isolation of people that promotes powerlessness through hierarchies which allows for totalitarianism. This makes us all more vulnerable to oppression. The only way to fight oppressive regimes is to engage in democratic practices that promote solidarity, disrupt unequal power relations and promote resistance. A tangible way in which to promote democratic ideals and promote resistance to the atomization of people is through the creation of a community or school garden.
In early April of 2021, I began the process of revitalizing our school garden with my 3rd and 4th grade students during a Town Hall. I asked the students to come up with a list of items for what we can grow and if we will use it to harvest foods or for purposes of beautification. We discussed potential uses, what equipment and materials will be needed, and how we will acquire all of the resources required for the garden to be a success. This was the beginning of a process where an official ballot will be created using Google Forms where our school community will vote on policies or rules for the garden, roles or jobs, uses, as well as what we will plant. The results of the ballots will dictate what will become of our garden.
I hope to spend the next few years trying to answer my own questions and building a unique experience for the school community to practice democracy and provide authentic experiences of solidarity. Additionally, I hope to utilize the resources provided by Healthy Kids Shine to create authentic learning experiences across my school to promote community.
I challenge you to start a school garden to practice democratic socialism.
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