What was once 28,000 square feet of paved schoolyard asphalt is now a full-fledged garden complete with walkways, a storage shed and an iron fence. The 500 preK-5 students at Brooklyn, N.Y.'s P.S. 216 elementary school are the first students in the city to experience an Edible Schoolyard program.
The project, the first in the country to operate year-round, was completed in a mere seven weeks. For its efforts, the school won the 2010 Harry H. Mellon Award of Excellence in Job Order Contracting. The Edible Schoolyard program began in Berkley, California as part of the nonprofit organization, Chez Pannisee Foundation, founded by chef and author Alice Waters. The nearly $2 million project, funded through many private donations, has changed the culture at the school, says Principal Celia Kaplinsky.
The garden has been incorporated into the school's curriculum with classes—even in the winter—studying plant life, soil and food in the school's kitchen classrooms and greenhouse. Lunches include food from the garden, and parents are invited to night events to experience the garden, as well.
"The garden is an equalizer for students at the school, and the community has really gotten involved," says Kaplinsky. The garden is particularly important for students in an urban environment, she says, so students are more aware of the food they're eating. "Some children think the food they're eating comes straight from the supermarket," says Kaplinsky. "By studying these plants growing in the ground, they can really internalize it."