Franklin elementary school in Oakland California has a little garden with a gazebo covered in grape vines, a box for three sisters — corn, beans and squash — little round eggplants, multi-colored peppers, pole beans on the fence, kale and collards, and a fig tree.
The school is in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the world and the new principal wants to make it a place that embraces refugees and and fosters friendships and education between children of newcomers and those who have been here multiple generations. The garden is a place parents and other volunteers can showcase their green thumbs and share favorite foods and traditions .
I went with third grade teacher on a Sunday to water the plants and collect pole beans to make a salad for her students to try on Monday.
The garden can be a place where students suffering Post traumatic stress, culture shock and struggling with a new language find comfort, and physical release. It is a science laboratory and a source of immense school pride. But in order to take full advantage of the project they need more staff — a full time garden instructor to fulfill their education vision and bring their verdant dream into fruition.
It is hard to understand how the city- currently providing huge public subsidies to a real estate developer for a shipping and logistics center slated to bring coal shipments into the Oakland port– does not have enough money for this modest but essential garden project.
Public schools should not have to fundraise, but until we live in that world where the proverbial military bake sale goes moldy, real estate developers are not subsidized with public funds and school funding reflects our love of children — the Oakland Education Fund is a way to fill that need so many of us feel right now to support refugees.
There are over 100 languages spoken in the Oakland schools but the language of gardens in universal. http://www.ousd.org/Page/11078