Looking Back at Time Spent in the Edible Schoolyard, by Noah Bashevkin
I returned to the Edible Schoolyard a couple of weeks ago to help prepare for the 2012 Academy. While shoveling mulch for a new pathway in the garden, I looked up to notice that from the garden you can see the Golden Gate Bridge. How had I missed this postcard-perfect view as a student at King Middle School? My first thought was that I must have been too short at that age to observe the landscape. I discreetly squatted down to test my hypothesis, but looked up from an equally rewarding vantage point. I have gained life experience (and height) since I graduated from King six years ago, but it is through my internship with the Edible Schoolyard Project, that I have been able to reflect on the program I loved with a deeper sense of appreciation for the education I gained.
In sixth grade, I caught a cooking bug in Ms. Cook’s kitchen that has never gone away. While increased appetite comes with the territory of being a 12-year-old boy, my excitement about eating could not be chalked up to physical growth. It came as a result of huge personal growth, fostered by my time in the garden. After school, I was eager to show my family how great I was at improvising vinaigrette, or what I could do with rainbow chard, and that I could make pasta puttanesca just as it was described in my favorite books, the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I pored over cookbooks and planned elaborate menus for my family; I felt a creative spark that continues to this day. Few things elate me more or give me a greater sense of accomplishment than serving a successful meal of delicious food. Going through the Edible Schoolyard program taught me how to cook and garden – skills which I am inarguably better off knowing.
But I am not in culinary school, nor do I plan to incorporate my love of cooking or gardening into my professional life. What I gained most from my education at the Edible Schoolyard was not a concrete set of tools, lessons, or skills, but rather a passion for learning and creating and an excitement about going to school. I gained self-assurance at a time in life when confidence can be hard to come by.
During a visit to help Rebecca Burke’s sixth grade class in the garden this June, one girl told me that I looked way too old to be 19, guessing that I was probably 25. “Weird!” I said, feigning surprise to cover my satisfaction at my apparent maturity. But then another girl let me know that in her opinion, I looked about 12. I may be further along on the crossroads of childhood and adulthood, begun at King Middle School in the Edible Schoolyard, but am not yet beyond it.
Now, as an intern at the Edible Schoolyard Project, my experiences revisiting King and working behind the scenes have put into perspective how much I actually gained from my three years as a student there. Working here has triggered memories of the place that taught me creativity, excitement, and conscientiousness. In the Edible Schoolyard Project office, I am surrounded by passionate people who are working hard and diligently for a cause they believe in. Re-exposing myself to the values of the garden and kitchen classroom program has incited me to think further about how I can activate similar confidence, pleasure, and care for endeavors I choose to develop for the rest of my life.