The school yard project at P.S. 216 converts an asphalt parking lot in Brooklyn into a lush edible garden where students plant, harvest, and cook the crops that they have grown. The kids learn through the care of doing, engaging their senses in a way that traditional education cannot provide. By sowing the seeds, digging the dirt, harvesting the crops, and cooking the meals, arithmetic, reading, and social studies are reinforced in applicable ways.
Nature itself is an invaluable educator. The edible schoolyard is synced with the cycles of nature to use them in a responsible way. Rain water is collected off of the roof and used to irrigate the crops, kitchen waste is recycled as compost, and energy is harvested from the sun and wind to power the kitchen appliances. These cycles are an important part of our children’s education of the natural world as well as a vital part of our economic sustainability and environmental stewardship.
Our hope is to not only challenge traditional education practices, but to open students and parents minds to the possibilities that lie in their kitchen at home, instilling in the next generation healthier life styles that are rooted in their own communities. If they have grown it they will eat it.
Food brings people together. Whether it is at home or school growing, cooking and eating are events that inspire community. The garden isn’t just for the students enrolled at P.S. 216 but is for the surrounding community as well. The care that goes into tending a garden instills a sense of achievement that demonstrates that a greener environment and healthier life styles are not only practical but desirable.
The Edible Schoolyard NY’s four major architectural elements complement the productive garden to create learning, growing and cooking spaces. Working together as a series of interlinked sustainable systems, these elements produce energy and heat, collect rainwater, process compost and sort waste to create an infrastructure that is entirely off grid.
At the heart of the project is the Kitchen Classroom, where a continuous counter provides space for three learning stations, a series of commercial standard kitchen equipment, storage and an office, all around three large dining tables where up to thirty students can sit together to enjoy the meals they prepare. The kitchen’s butterfly shaped roof channels rain water for reclamation.
Connected to one side of the Kitchen Classroom is the Mobile Greenhouse: a lightweight polycarbonate structure that extends the garden’s growing season by covering 1600sf of soil in the fall and winter and sliding it away in the spring, over the Kitchen Classroom, allowing additional crops to be planted in the same earth. On the other side is the Systems Wall: a series of round spaces that include a 1,500-gallon reclaimed water cistern, space for composting and waste-sorting, storage for the solar power batteries, dishwashing facilities, a tool shed and a chicken coop!
Finally, standing in the garden next to the outdoor oven and the large picnic table is the Ramada– a round seating area, shaded and protected by a roof of photovoltaic panels, where children first gather to become oriented for the morning lesson and work plan before starting the farming and cooking activities of the day.