I’m back in Los Angeles!
On a recent sunny day, I visited the White House Place Learning Garden in Koreatown. I’ve been to the Garden a number of times, profiling the story of its’ chief steward, Lara Morrison, as part of the first episode of Mindful American (yet to be released.)
The White House Place Garden was nearly turned into additional parking lot space by the LA Unified School District, however members of the nearby Los Angeles Eco Village (including Lara) and residents of the surrounding neighborhood helped convince the school district to instead use the space as a garden for local school students.
This wasn’t my first trip to the Learning Garden, but it was certainly the most energetic! On this particular Friday, four separate classes of students from the nearby Frank Del Olmo elementary school came to White House Place for their weekly garden class, led by the lovely garden teacher, Jillian Shagrin. You can check out Jillian’s health and wellness blog at Lean Green Revolution.
I started the morning in the garden with forty-some 4th grade students, harvesting radishes, weeding the paths, tasting fennel seeds, and picking lemons.
Granted, I don’t see these kids in the classroom so maybe they are as hungry about learning social studies and fractions as they are about the garden, but these were some seriously excited 4th graders! And it wasn’t a “we’re outside, we’re not stuck at our desks, let’s just run HOG WILD” type of energy. The students were FOCUSED and EAGER about the tasks at hand, pumped to learn about the plants, asking follow-up questions after each activity. One young girl told me the Learning Garden is her “favorite place, ever.”
Admittedly, there aren’t tons of vast, green spaces in LA. We are in quite a drought after all. Most folks don’t have a yard, sometimes not even a balcony or patio. Of course, there’s a lot of cool wilderness to explore around the city, but as a child, your daily radius of places is often limited to home and school and in between. For a lot of the kids in Koreatown, that means a lot of concrete.
The Learning Garden seemed to ignite that good ol’ fashioned back-to-the-land spirit in the students. The satisfied feeling of getting dirty with a purpose. The incredibly empowering moment when you finally taste the food you grew, knowing it started as a little seed and was planted by you! That’s a seriously good feeling!
Today, just get totally 4th-grade-style PUMPED about something, anything! Cuz that little thing might just be a seed that grows!