Last Friday I walked into a school garden with five packets of seeds, 12 petunia plants, 16 copies of a great book, and one goal. I wanted to bring a diverse group of students together over something we all share, the need to eat real food.
I waited in the garden patiently for the fifth graders to arrive. Finally they rushed in, grabbed a tool, ran to the raised beds, and started throwing dirt right and left. This normally isn’t a problem for me, but this day in particular I wanted to do things a little differently.
I asked everyone to drop their tools and freeze. I explained how we were going to read the first chapter of a book as a group and then we could get back to planting. I heard some sighs of protest at first, but everyone gathered around the picnic table and opened their books.
I told the students that the book was about a diverse group of community members in the Midwest, who are brought together by a community garden.
A couple of the students looked at each other smiling; I think they noticed some parallels between themselves and the theme of the book.
The wind started whipping around us, the sun was shining bright, and the fifth graders were buzzing through each paragraph like determined little bees.
We finished the first chapter and a calm came over the group. Several students asked if we could read another chapter, but it really struck me when one student said “This is us, we’re all gonna plant our garden.”
As I said before, usually there’s dirt flying everywhere when I garden with these students. They went back to planting and it seemed that everyone was reflecting on what they had just read.
I had one student reading the back of the seed packets aloud, one student digging holes to the specified depth, and a couple of students dropping in seeds and another covering them up. I had never seen a group of kids work together like this!
If nothing else, SeedFolks, by Paul Fleischman provided our garden club with the chance to see ourselves reflected. We started out reading our individual books about a group of people who were all so different and we ended up with our knees in the dirt planting our first seeds of the year, together.