At the Episcopal School of Knoxville, we are literally getting “hands-on” experience in finding out what it is like to produce our own sustainable food supply. Using the Abundant Life Garden Project curriculum by Episcopal Relief & Development, the 4th-grade class and I began our study of transforming communities and transforming lives by giving each child a card bearing a “gift” from the Gifts for Life catalog and asking, “How will you survive on this?’
After several weeks of unbearably high heat, followed by drenching rain, it was time to get our hands dirty with actual gardening. I was concerned: How interested were nine- and 10-year-olds going to be in gardening – especially in the fall, when dead plants needed to be cleaned out and thrown into the compost heap?
To my surprise, the entire class of 4th graders embraced the work with gusto. With only minor scuffling over who got to use the hoes and rakes, the children gleefully harvested the green beans, plucked out the few remaining squash and tomatoes, and enthusiastically carried off armloads of dried-up leaves, roots and vines.
At the end of our class time, a young man approached me and said it had been “more fun than recess” – and asked if he could do gardening each day instead of having recess. To my surprise, I heard several children remark that gardening was “fun!” and wonder when they would get to work there again.
To close our time together, we popped into Headmaster Jay Secor’s office, and with great pride, the 4th graders presented Mr. Secor with a lovely red pail full of freshly picked green beans. They took great joy in giving a simple, basic Gift of Life, just as we all do when we serve others in need.
Cynthia Coe is a Christian formation consultant, a member of the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee Christian Formation Team, and writer of the Abundant Life Garden Project. She is teaching the program at the Episcopal School of Knoxville this year.
The Abundant Life Garden Project is available on our website at www.er-d.org/Children. If you have used this resource, please share your story and pictures with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Ms. Hoover's 4th-grade class enjoys working in the garden. Courtesy of Kelly Norrell for Episcopal School of Knoxville.
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