"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing."  - Arundhati Roy

Shaking off a Wisconsin winter begins with hope beneath a Tamarack School Garden in bloomblanket of gray. Our early spring palate of sand, salt, and other extraneous grit invites brave imaginations, and braver plants. Then, like magic: color. Insects and flowers mingle, and despite the rain, we’re happy for the rainbow under our feet. It’s a plant party, and everyone is invited.

Springs, you might say, are inclusive - and the gardens that begin in them are no less so. 

They offer, literally, a common ground.
Gardens offer us the chance to celebrate both what unites us across oceans – sun, soil, air, water – and what makes us unique. To that end, some schools have chosen to incorporate intentional multicultural themes into their gardens to highlight the different cultures represented among students, or those that students would like to learn more about.
Research conducted in Australia about a non-profit program called Multicultural School Gardens offers “food for thought with respect to the potential for children’s gardening to transcend language and cultural differences” at one of several program schools. During an observation visit to the school, one researcher noted that the “everyday cultural exchange” facilitated by the Multicultural School Gardens program seemed to “take children’s gardening to a new level where the focus isn’t just on gardening, but the children’s culture making it far more meaningful for new immigrants to Australia.”
And yet, gardens do not necessarily have to be designed as multicultural spaces to become them. Many plants have roots in a variety of different culinary, medicinal, or artistic traditions. Plants that span cultural borders can help students do the same.  
At Tamarack Waldorf School, a Muhammad Ali Peace Garden grant helped the school install its garden in 2011.* Tamarack, which draws a diverse population of student
s from its urban Milwaukee setting, knows at least one thing its garden is communicating to students: “It’s saying,” Assistant Administrator Sandra
 Gines said, “that all human beings thrive when they engage with nature.”
We hope this newsletter will inspire you to help facilitate this process of connecting students to new cultural experiences through the garden.  We’ve included resources with garden design ideas, recipes, inspiring stories, and more. We’d like to hear your story, too! Don’t forget to take some snapshots as spring’s colors appear, and send us the best to share around the state!

Funding for this project was provided by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health from the Wisconsin Partnership Program.  

*Although the Peace Garden grant cycle has come to a close, the organization continues to offer resources such as recipes and activity ideas for school that want to help children learn respect for different cultures through gardening.

Many thanks to Tamarack Waldorf School, Green Bay West High School, and the Multicultural School Gardens program pictures library for the photos in this article!


Resources & Events

Growing Minds Garden Course for Educators.  Don't miss this amazing opportunity from Community GroundWorks to learn more about how to facilitate a school garden, from design and maintenance to engaging students with garden curriculum.  July 21-25, 2014. Graduate credit available. Register here.
Multicultural Garden Salad. A lesson that includes science, culture and the garden - from a Detroit, MI 4th grade teacher. 
A Year in the School Garden.  This website is intended as a resource for parent volunteers, teachers, and friends of the gardens at Atkinson School in Portland, OR, but is useful to everyone! Check out the school's Legacy Gardens, which include Salsa, Three Sisters, and Asian gardens. Each student-designed Legacy Garden plan includes lessons and recipes.
Palo Alto Demonstration Garden. A Master Gardener project that includes plants lists for Asian, Mediterranean, and Latin American gardens.

Wisconsin Farm to School. Their April Newsletter has resources like a Farm to School Toolkit, events and webinars, and more!
Multicultural Garden Books.  Each book brings together a unique place, time, and culture with kids and gardening!

In the Garden with Dr. Carver (George Washington Carver makes a visit to rural Alabama, circa 1900, to help students grow their gardens in soil depleted by cotton crops.)
My Mother's Garden (A Malaysian girl explores her mother's garden)
Rainbow Stew  (Veggies and characters of all different colors make garden stew!)

School Garden Success Stories

We'd love to hear from you!  Our newsletters will continue to profile stories of Wisconsin educators and their youth gardens. What have been your biggest challenges and successes? What makes your garden unique and worthwhile?  If you're not sure where to begin, you can follow our story guide.  If you've already written a blog post or article, you can share that, too.  Share here.
Green Bay West’s Multicultural School Garden

 E-ben Grisby wanted his students to know that you don’t have to fit a stereotype to do organic gardening. A year later, he has helped student leaders at Green Bay’s West High School create a garden that debunks pre-conceived notions about who can grow good food, or what that food should be. 
The school’s garden highlights foods from many of the cultural traditions represented among West High students, 30-40% of whom identify as non-white.  Students and faculty worked together to brainstorm some of the major foods eaten in different cultural traditions, and created garden beds to represent each. “It’s not to stereotype any of the foods in terms of where it belongs,” Grisby remarked, “We want students to know that these foods are not limited to these communities, but also give them a sense of which foods contribute most to the different diets.“
The multicultural beds include a Three Sisters Garden of corn, beans and squash that was blessed by Oneida Nation representatives from the area before planting, as well as a Soul Garden that contains vegetables common among African American and pan-African communities – things like cabbages, collards, okra, and eggplant. The Salsa Garden contains tomatoes, peppers, and other foods used commonly in Latino communities while the Golden Garden features bok choi, peas, and a variety of coAn Oneida Nation member assists with the Three Sisters Garden planting.oking greens used commonly in area Asian communities.  The garden also supports LGBT students and community members with its Rainbow raised bed of colorful chard, red and green cabbages, and different colored peppers.
The garden goes hand in handwith the Diversity Club that Grisby advises, and many students are involved in both.  “The Diversity Club really tries to engage students to understanding themselves as a part of the community, using their own culture as an asset,” Grisby said. 
West, which tends to have an open environment between different student groups, is using its garden to help students engage with the wider community as well. Last year, student leaders arranged a plant sale and sold vegetables at the school to help supportthe garden.  Summer school students sold produce at a farmer’s market and donated food to local pantries.  

Grisby described the area around West as a food desert, with more access to fast foods than nutritious foods. “I don’t think our kids understood the process from plant to plate,” he said. “With the garden, they are involved from start to finish. We have a huge greenhouse that we were in jeopardy of losing before we started the garden – now the seedlings our students started there should be transplanted to the garden in just a couple of weeks.”
In addition to Grisby, the garden is led by a core group of student as well as and two school social workers who are particularly invested in bringing in foods that meet the needs of some of the different cultures on West’s campus.
“It’s interesting to see how the commonalities between the different cultures can play a big role in our overall health and wellbeing,” said Grisby, who has noticed that many students who used to have a very limited view of palatable vegetables – or a total aversion to them – are much more willing to try new things since getting involved with the garden.  “It’s kind of like breaking them out of their comfort zone and demystifying the big role foods play in different cultures.”
 Learn more about the Green Bay West High School garden project through this story and video by the Green Bay Press Gazette.
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                                                                                                              For those new to WSGI, we couldn't leave out these amazing resources. "Got Dirt?" will walk you through starting a school garden, while "Got Veggies?" will help you implement a garden-based nutrition curriculum.  "Cultivating Childhood Wellness through Gardening" is an online training that will help you establish and utilize a school garden.  You can watch the entire training or select specific chapters.

Find them all here.

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