“Peppers start off green and get redder as they get riper,” Shaniqua instructs as she holds up a juicy bell pepper, fresh off the vine. Quickly another learner chimes in to voice his disapproval, insisting that peppers start red and become green. Shaking her head, Shaniqua fires back gracefully, affirming her statement with solid proof: she has seen a pepper—this pepper, in fact—make its chromatic transition across the spectrum and is here to set the facts straight.
Since April—when Academy of Hope began its cooperation with Wangari Gardens—learner-led interactions at the garden have been the norm, bringing to life many GED and life skills concepts that had formerly functioned merely as page-bound test items. The program has started as a small effort with several students and faculty focusing on mastering raised bed gardening, but has larger aspirations, according to Academy of Hope instructor and garden coordinator, Meghan Snyder.
“I’d like to see these few garden beds really change the way Academy of Hope classes function,” she says. “Our learners have had issues in traditional classroom settings, so opportunities to transform the way students think about what learning looks like are always positive.”
And while the program is growing gradually, the vegetables are shooting up. Summer harvests included tomatoes, squash, lettuce, rosemary, cilantro, jalapeno and bell peppers. The tasty haul was distributed equally among the gardeners, but Meghan says she hopes to expand this element of the program as well. “Many of our students do not have regular access to healthy, fresh food. If we can expand our harvests, I hope we’ll be able to distribute healthy snacks during school store hours. Starbursts and Doritos probably can’t sustain you through a four-hour GED practice test,” she laughs.
Whatever the future of the garden holds, students like Shaniqua are sure to be involved. As she collects the squash, tomatoes, and lettuce that she has harvested, Shaniqua seems content. “That was fun,” she shouts as she walks away, “When do we get to come back?”
--Meghan Snyder, Academy of Hope Instructor
Interested in supporting the Academy of Hope garden? If you would like to donate items to plant please contact Meghan at firstname.lastname@example.org. To make financial contributions you can give securely online here.