Growing with Nature
From Black Top to Green Canopy
In both the agricultural and gardening worlds adults talk a lot about the importance of children growing their own organic produce. Programs are set up at farms, schools, and local community gardens to help children learn all about where their food comes from. Some programs go a step further and teach compost, soil, watering, harvesting, and preparing your food in a delicious recipe. But is that enough?
Over six months ago, my world of gardening was torn open by two wonderful incidents:
First, meeting a Master Gardener named Joe who mentioned the idea of growing a food forest at the local community garden and the word, "permaculture."
Second, attending the Children & Nature Networking Conference and meeting Jospeh Cornell, who founded Sharing Nature.
After the conference, I decided to take a walk through Big Basin State Park. I had a lot on my mind. How do I work out all these ideas, all this new information, and all the amazing connections I made in Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and Santa Barbara County. I went on an hour hike, because that was all I could spare before my trek back to Southern California. The moment I hit the trail my mind started to wonder into the peaceful surrounding of the redwood trees. I found myself stopping and looking closely at the organisms on live redwoods and fallen redwoods. I noticed the patterns in the bark, the smell of clean air, and the sound of the stream. No more traffic, no more loud noises, no more stress.
I began to think about food forests and natural forests and all the life and lessons that could be taught to children and even adults. How so much of our primary and secondary education's curriculum fit perfectly into reconnecting with nature and growing health organic food that benefited an ecosystem rather than a raised bed garden on cement.
So I asked myself the following questions:
What if children and adults worked together to build an ecosystem that thrived and allowed for natural fauna to inhabit? What if they learned about life skills and reconnecting with nature? What if they donated the surplus of their harvest? What if we went from black top to a green canopy at our schools?
In permaculture we are taught three ethics:
1. Care of People
2. Care of Earth
3. Fair Share
But what do these ethics mean and how does this apply to a children's gardening program at your local school? When it comes to building a food forest it takes a village and what a great way for a community to work together to enhance not only the beauty of their school, but also reduce the temperatures with the "Food Forest Playground." It is already well known that the temperatures on black top can be hot enough to burn and the heat that radiates can be harmful to children who love to run around and play. By replacing the black top children will be able to spend more time outdoors playing, they get to spend time in nature observing the natural fauna and flora of their communities. The children get the benefit of learning more about the native flora and fauna in their area and of course a habitat is created to protect the flora and fauna. The greatest part are the lessons children will learn from sharing their time to teach younger students to sharing their harvest. What a great way for children to understand more about the natural world around them.