In partnership with the PLF, a group of eight students from the Eugene Lang College at the New School in NYC spent five weeks conducting various innovative projects at PLF sponsored schools. Below is a write up from a gardening project, carried out by Noah Strouse.
This project, carried out at the Tchey school over the course of ten days throughout July, 2012 focused on engaging a small group of students through hands on educational experiences with science and sustainability. Each day consisted of two dual components: lesson and practice. Students would first learn about a particular subject through the format of a brief sit down lesson, then immediately put the knowledge in to practice. Examples include learning about the scientific method then performing small scale experiments, learning about the nutrient cycle then building a compost system, and learning about chemical reactions then building a baking soda / vinegar volcano.
The majority of the work, however, focused on the reinvigoration of the Tchey school garden through Permaculture practices. This included a good deal of manual labor and collaboration with the school gardener, who herself served as perhaps the most vital component to the project. Tasks included weeding, digging, planting, mulching, and regular maintenance of the compost pile. Students, many of whom come from agricultural backgrounds, took a good deal of pride in their ability to demonstrate their own local knowledge about this work.
Projects like these are immensely important from two distinct yet interconnected perspectives. First, the physical impact of such simple work has a significant domino effect: with the ability to grow one’s own chemical free food, massive issues of nutrition and health can be addressed. Permaculture practices rely solely on natural and locally sourced resources, cutting down expenditures. Secondly, this work has the potential to act as a sight of empowerment and collective action. Not only does basic health serve as the foundation for any potential ability to engage with larger sets of social issues, but furthermore the local knowledge sharing catalyzes community building and dialogue between individuals and communities of all types. Everyone eats and can politically mobilize around food. This momentum of empowerment is an important facet of grassroots social change. Future work should be focused on the expansion of such projects towards greater inclusion of all stakeholders in a local community, and increased knowledge sharing as a source of empowerment.
by Noah Strouse