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Gardening is a Revolutionary Act

This post is written by Micaela Goldzweig, a Resident Teacher in a preschool classroom at Inspired Teaching Demonstration School in NE Washington DC.

There is growth in the air as we welcome the longer days, warming weather, sprouting buds, and chirping cicadas. During preschool’s gardening unit and into the transition to our insects unit, we have been exploring blooms and bugs in the garden beds on the side of the school. These communal gardening beds have instilled a strong sense of community within our classroom and throughout the entire school. There are many lessons to be learned from gardening, from its emphasis on the right to accessible freshly grown food, to an understanding that there are many big and small creatures necessary to the flourishing of plants. Particularly with our focus on social justice, preschool has built an understanding that there is no realization of social justice without a strong, supportive community.

During our exploration of the garden as a community, we invited preschool parent Emily Hestness, a professional garden educator, to speak about her community garden where people from all over come together for a common, shared good. This lesson taught us how the creation of a space for all to enjoy is a political act. There is not equal and fair access to healthy food, and we believe it is an inalienable right for children and all people to enjoy delicious, nutritious, and affordable (free) food. A community garden offers a solution to combat these types of inequities, which are the result of systemic racism and systemic classism. Black Lives Matter incorporates 13 Guiding Principles, with the aspiration of transforming the exclusionary world we live in now to something that serves all people. The Inspired Teaching Demonstration School steadfastly supports BLM and its empowering tenets. The first principle asserts the importance of restorative justice. Restorative justice can feel like a complicated word, but it focuses on the ideas of restoration or reviving justice. Growth in a garden restores the earth by aiding insects and people, but it also restores our relationship with food – healthy food in particular – which is entitled to every student and every member in the community. . Although a small garden, we use the community space to spread (revolutionary) notions that you deserve food because we all deserve food; and that insects deserve a place to flourish because the earth deserves to flourish.

The garden exposes us to empathetic ways of thinking that values the diversity of those in our community, but also the diversity of creatures that live among us. While working in the garden with preschoolers is an early step, it is laying a foundation for the tenets we hope they will carry on into their lives – tenets that apply broadly and lead to social justice for all. Our garden brings us together for a common goal and with a common value: the Inspired Teaching Demonstration School is a school designed for all and a school that cannot thrive without its expansive community.