We aren’t big camp people. I never went to overnight camp because my parents were afraid of child molesters and mosquito bites. Vivien has given me the evil eye, “I’m so not happy with you mommy” stare when I’ve pushed her to go to camp. The big assemblies and rah, rah, “We are the Mighty Turtles!” cheers shut her down. While I see a fun day of crafts, and waterplay she sees an over earnest intrusion into her psyche. Both can be correct.
But, last year a friend told us about the garden camp. It combined two of my favorite things: nature and old parts of LA that posers who live in Brentwood or dine on Sunset blvd wouldn’t be caught dead in. Correction, they don’t even know these areas exist. You see The Garden School Foundation started about 11 years ago to educate Title 1 kids (ie, low income) kids about nature, nutrition, and wearing floppy sunhats. In the West Adams district of LA, an area famous for beautiful Craftsman homes and the evisceration of LA’s upper class African Americans when the 10 freeway plowed through it’s neighborhood in the 1960’s, sits the 24th street school. A typical LA unified asphalt covered elementary school. But, there is a hidden part! A big one. A 2 acre garden in the back of the school that abuts the 10 freeway. It is an oasis in the urban jungle. A drink of water in a concrete desert. A snow ball in the desert.
There are sweet garden teachers who show the kids how to make humus with a blender powered by a bicycle, how to grow kale and make art with beans..and glue and stuff.
One of my favorite things to this burnt out mom is that you do NOT send them with snack or lunch. They eat from the garden. My kids ate salad every day and liked it. They came home excited to try recipes. Rex has tried to make a few things since he went. Do I have to spend 30 minutes cleaning after he does so? Yes, but at least he is trying!
Vivien even liked it because the groups were small, there was no assembly or cheering. Plus they are OUTSIDE all day. OUTSIDE around pretty green things, not the outside of their school in Hollywood with homeless, smells of pot and obnoxious billboards.
“I wish school was like this” said Rex. I wish life was like this. I could sit in that meandering, folk art strewn garden for hours, even if the hum of the 10 murmurs nearby.
City kids need any bit of nature they can get.