Tasting Veggies and Learning Weeds at Foster

Tasting Veggies and Learning Weeds at Foster

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It can be difficult to fill in for another Garden Ranger.  When that ranger you’re filling in for is named Lily (an apt name for any horticultural educator), and the school where you’re filling in is a shade-less amalgamation of bungalows in Compton’s water parched landscape, that job can be even more difficult.  I pulled myself together however, took in the wonderful bounty growing in Foster’s garden, ripened my spirits, and set to work teaching the kids the difference between garden plants and weeds.

Lined up against the wall of the library (taking advantage of the only shade in the area), I quizzed the kids about what they had learned about last week.  The parts of the plants, rules to work by while in the garden, and they had already planted seeds and tasted some tomatoes.  Great! I thought, they kids have already been exposed to the garden, they know how to behave, and they know how to identify the parts of a plant–my job should be easy.

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Lined up against the wall of the library (taking advantage of the only shade in the area), I quizzed the kids about what they had learned about last week.  The parts of the plants, rules to work by while in the garden, and they had already planted seeds and tasted some tomatoes.  Great! I thought, they kids have already been exposed to the garden, they know how to behave, and they know how to identify the parts of a plant–my job should be easy.

The only problem, I realized, was that there were practically no weeds in the garden for me to use as examples.  Lily and the kids had done such an excellent job of taking care of the garden that every available inch of soil was already occupied with a vegetable plant.  In the end, I had to have the kids pull weedy grass out of a parched and dying lawn.  We identified the grasses (ones that normally grow in the garden) and I asked them for a definition of a weed.

There were some giggles, but no one wanted to volunteer an answer.  Then, when I was about to come up with a definition, one kid threw his hand up in the air.  “Yes?” I asked him.  “A weed is a plant that you don’t want in your garden”.  Simple.  Succinct.  Thorough.  Man, I thought, that was better than the definition I had prepared.  Just the volunteer at Markham middle school had told me the day before, “You have to listen because even when you’re teaching the kids, they’re teaching you”.

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