We are a Nashville-area nonprofit providing experiential education through garden-based learning to school children ages 4-14. By partnering with local early learning centers, elementary schools and middle schools in the most vulnerable neighborhoods in Nashville, we are part of a national movement that seeks to make school gardens sources of vitality in low-income areas. Through these relationships with schools and community organizations, we help increase food access and awareness for young people who may be food insecure, thus improving the health and wellbeing of students and families, as well as providing directly applicable learning experiences that enrich students’ academic curriculum. In addition to direct facilitation with students in classrooms and gardens, we are dedicated to increasing the capacity for school gardens by working with teachers, parents, school staff and administrators to build a sustainable food system within the boundaries of the schoolyard, increasing garden literacy among children and grown-ups alike.
We are rapidly becoming a pioneer in meaningfully integrating edible education into school curriculum, especially at the pre-k level. Our focus goes beyond typical school garden programs that are limited to older students, who are regarded as able to use the proper tools and proper garden behavior, and implemented as ancillary after-school programs. We are one of the few organizations in middle Tennessee working with early learning programs to integrate edible, hands-on learning into the students’ day. We have translated our vision of a just and sustainable food system into a reality through projects such as planting, harvesting, cooking and building with 4-year-olds and the adults who care for them. We embrace a child-led approach for garden education, where facilitators plan lessons to be flexible enough to follow children’s interests and allow for experimentation and exploration, while also aligning their lessons to the school’s daily curriculum to increase the impact for learning. Cultivating a sense of wonder alongside ownership in the knowledge of local food systems forms the basis of our work with all 6 partner schools, one in every region of Nashville.In growing, preparing and sharing food, we enable children to discover their cultural connection to the land, share the commonalities of food with their peers and integrate more fully into their communities. The intentionality of our garden- or kitchen-based education meets the children where they are in their learning and experience, recognizing we have a generation that does not know where their food comes from. Cultural diversity and multicultural understanding are guiding principles in our work, manifested in making culturally-relevant foods available to include in school gardens, as well as sharing foods with each other.