I learn something every day. Or a few things. Like today.
This afternoon marked my second session back with the middle schoolers at Drew Freeman since the holiday break. The garden club project originally started with me being hired this past fall to teach a series of 12 after school lessons on sustainable living. I found myself falling in love with the students and the possibilities at this most unusual public middle school in Prince George's County right around the time I was asked to continue leading (and expanding) the club. How could I resist such a bevy of kale munching, beet craving, plant loving pre-teens? I can't. And once we take a final vote on our club's name, you'll fall in love with them, too, I bet, when you read all about our adventures in planting and cooking on the blog we'll be setting up. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First we need a name.
The motley crew of 7th and 8th graders have over the course of the past 4 months been alternately referred to as The SMILE Club, The Urban Farming Club, and the Garden Club, and gosh darn it, I'd been thinking lately, it's about time we chose our own name. Something that really solidifies for us -- and for the increasing number of interested folks dropping by to see what we're up to -- what it is we are all about. (Beet Freaks? They do love beets more than anyone ever could have anticipated. The Drew Garden Crew? Wooh, good thing I'm not the one doing the naming here....) The whole process of students brainstorming names for themselves was very telling. I tried not to smile too maniacally as I scrawled possible names they'd generated in their journals onto the chalkboard and asked them to explain their ideas: The Green Group ("because we're doing stuff to help the planet"), Going Green ("because we recycle and stuff"), The Cooking and Planting Club ("because that's what we do"), The Green Squad ("um, well, you know, we care about green things and we work together"), E.F.G. (The Eco-Friendly Group), and, admittedly my favorite, The Physical Club.
"Why did you suggest The Physical Club?" I inquired of the mild-mannered student who'd volunteered it.
"Well, Ms. Vincent," James smiled as he straightened his glasses, "it's because we do stuff here. We're not just home sitting on the couch." Yep, sometimes we do some pretty physical stuff in this program. Remember hauling the dirt for the raised beds in early November? I definitely broke a sweat.
Of course. They get it. This club is about doing things. Building things. Growing things. Recycling things. Reusing things. Cooking things. And making our world a little nicer. And, yes, some days are quite physical. Like today, as we collected, arranged, and zip-tied a 2-stage compost bin for our garden. Let me tell you, those pallets were heavy. (Don't be fooled by Nigel's smile, he was really working here.)
It took a bit longer than I'd anticipated as students and teachers measured and troubleshot -- what, it's a word (or should be, if it's not) -- and rearranged the wooden sides again and again until things lined up, and after zip-tying the whole shebang together and starting off the base layer with the remnants of our sprouted seed trays from the classroom, we at last headed back indoors to clean up and warm up and do a little cooking.
Look at the contentment on our faces. That's one good lookin' compost bin.
Next we'll be shredding up the cardboard boxes I've been stockpiling in the classroom to start mixing in with the food scraps we sort after snack time each week. But you'll have to read about that in our club blog... name TBD.