The mission of the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley is to teach essential life skills and support academic learning through hands-on classes in a one-acre organic garden and kitchen classroom. The Edible Schoolyard curriculum is fully integrated into the school day and teaches students how their choices about food affect their health, the environment, and their communities.
The Edible Schoolyard Berkeley
The Edible Schoolyard Berkeley (ESY Berkeley) is a one-acre organic garden and kitchen classroom for urban public school students at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School. This model program for edible education is fully funded by the Edible Schoolyard Project. At ESY Berkeley, students participate in all aspects of growing, harvesting, and preparing nutritious, seasonal produce during the academic day and in after-school classes. Students’ hands-on experience in the kitchen and garden fosters a deeper appreciation of how the natural world sustains us and promotes the environmental and social well-being of our school community.
The Organic Garden
In the spring of 1995, an abandoned lot adjacent to the school was designated as the garden site. Landscape architects, chefs, gardeners, and teachers were invited to share their vision of a garden where students would participate in hands-on learning. Seventeen years later, the acre of land is lush with seasonal vegetables, herbs, vines, berries, flowers, and fruit trees. King Middle School teachers and the garden staff work together to link garden experiences with students’ science and humanities lessons for truly integrated experiential learning.
The Kitchen Classroom
The Edible Schoolyard kitchen is an experiential learning classroom where students accompany their science and humanities teachers to experience culture, history, language, chemistry, and geography through the preparation of food. Warm, bright, and cheerful, the kitchen classroom is a backdrop for enthusiastic students who view the garden through the north-facing windows – making the tacit connection between seasonality, plants, and food.
Students cook together with freshly harvested produce from the garden and eat a freshly prepared dish, sharing the fruits of their labor around a communal table. As they harvest, cook, and eat their way through the school year, students experience lessons that support academic learning in the classroom.
The Edible Schoolyard Berkeley engages the wider community of King Middle School by extending programming to evenings and weekends. Families participate in three Saturday workdays, helping to maintain the garden and sharing lunch together. Parents and families also participate in evening classes held in the kitchen classroom. These classes give students an opportunity to share lessons learned with their families and provide tools for families to cook fresh meals.
The Edible Schoolyard Academy
During the summer months, ESY Berkeley hosts an annual academy. The ESY Academy is designed to support emerging garden and kitchen programs nationwide and to strengthen resource- and information-sharing among them. Led by ESY Berkeley staff and guest presenters, the ESY Academy provides a five-day edible education immersion. Through hands-on activities, presentations, guided discussion, and curriculum-building sessions, participants learn to use tools for teaching edible education – an integrated approach to education in the garden, kitchen, and classroom.