In May 2009 I began work at the Edible Schoolyard as caretaker of the pilot garden and summer camp teacher. In charge of designing and implementing garden and cooking curriculum, I realized quickly that I had landed my dream job and more importantly that I had a lot to learn. We are almost finished planning program for the fourth summer of Edible Schoolyard and I could not be more proud of the growth of our garden, our program, and our team.
Summer camp is what keeps my proverbial “museum heart” beating. I live for summer camp. I have dreams of summer camp in the winter months. There is even a special dance that our education staff does when we talk about it because our excitement cannot be contained. It may seem dramatic, but if you are familiar with our programs, you understand.
Last summer we built GIANT bug puppets and had an epic performance. Our 4th, 5th and 6th grade campers learned how to create banner puppets (… a la the Paperhand Puppet Theater). Campers learned how to move like the critters who are so essential to our food supply. They each made a papier-mâché beetle, a worm in the style of a Chinese dragon, a 6 foot fabric butterfly and three honey bees the sizes of their puppeteers. The campers filled the lobby with their movements, impressing their families and the guests who came to watch.
In July of 2011 we had a spot on WFMY and a front page article in the Carolina Peacemaker for our camp “Chiles and Chinampas”. It was the museum’s first ever bi-lingual camp. The majority of the campers were immigrants or children of immigrants. Most campers were from Mexico, El Salvador, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. We built a floating garden bed (which is still floating, by the way!) in our pond called a Chinampa. Aztecs built these floating growing spaces on flooded farm land by weaving together reeds and willow trees. Campers built them out of trash and poultry netting, designing a modern take. We talked about ancient civilization, colonization, contemporary immigration and food. Some campers expressed they had never been in an environment where they spoke in Spanish or about these topics outside of their homes.
I knew 6 or 7 of the campers prior to camp and it was an incredible thing to see their engagement with the projects. At the end of the week campers taught each other how their families make tamales. We served the tamales at a party with their parents. At the party, parents were in awe of the work, the food, the garden and the program. Students were beaming with pride.
Chiles and chinampas showed us what the Edible Schoolyard has the ability to do. It can bring children and families who are pushed to the social, economical and cultural margins to celebrate their ways of living. It can emphasize that knowledge that is outside of the mainstream is vital to building a society based in justice.
The education team submitted our proposal for summer camp 2012 today. Information will be available at the beginning of February. Please visit the website to see what we have in store for this year. Some of the most popular programs like “Farmer’s Market” will be back and better than ever! New camps with new energy will be guaranteed to have the same spirit and depth as all our programs.