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This guide is inspired by Stephen Ritz and the Green Bronx Machine . If you aren't familiar with them yet, you need to be. (Watch the short video below for a quick background on how they're changing the community they live in). What Stephen and his students have done is crazy impressive, but this guide doesn't suppose that you will recreate a garden to the same scale as theirs--as least not yet! What the guide does suppose is that you will take inspiration from what Stephen and his students have accomplished and use their methods to recreate some of that same magic in your own classroom with your students.
One of the coolest things about Stephen is that, even though his influence is felt well beyond the South Bronx schools that he has taught in, he remains adamant that he is first and foremost a teacher (please don't mistake him for a farmer!) And it's in his role as teacher that Stephen has used something as basic as a vegetable garden to transform the way students view the natural world that surrounds them, the food they put in their bodies, and the communities they live in. Stephen didn't invent the concepts of classroom gardens or urban farming , but he has found a way to make both of these things relevant and exciting to students who otherwise might have turned to activities that don't lead to such positive outcomes. And he's having a blast doing it!
In this guide you will find simple, easy to follow directions designed for teachers, to accommodate classrooms of all sizes and students of any age group. The guide focuses primarily on the container growing method, but depending on the time and resources that you have available, you might want to consider other methods of planting, such as raised beds, planter boxes or soilless growing environments. Bottom line, there really isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to plant a classroom garden, so don't feel that you have to follow the directions laid out in this guide word for word! Be creative, bend the rules, adapt these instructions to fit your classroom environment, your students, and your community. If you come up with alternative solutions that you think could work for other teachers, throw them up in the comment sections (located at the bottom of every page) so that other teachers can learn from your experiences. Just like a garden, this guide depends on the participation and cooperation of everyone involved in order to thrive, and everyone's input is valued.
Before you get started, check out Stephen Ritz's Tedx talk--and prepare to be inspired!: