We have put our beds to rest, packed our tools away, and rolled our fences up for later use. Last week, the students bundled up against the cold, for the last day of gardening. There was not much left to harvest, but we gleaned what we could before emptying the gardens and piling our plants in a heap to be taken to the city compost.
Back in the classroom, the students reflected on the past few months of gardening and together they shared what they have learned and practiced.
As the students reflected, I did too. I thought about our first day in the garden and how the class time seemed to be so frenzied, yet somehow quite productive. I laughed, remembering the time the watering hose wasn’t working, so I went to the spigot, cranked the water pressure as high as I could, and came back to see the student who was helping me absolutely soaked with water. Then there was the time I tried to gage how heavy a bin of steel fence posts was and knocked the whole thing over, and myself with it, much to the students’ amusement. I never made it through a class period without laughter at some point--or often many --which is one of the reasons I will really miss my days at Arlington Hills.
Looking back on the season, the students have also been teachers to me. The early summer days were blessed with abundant rains, and equally abundant plant growth, both wanted and unwanted. When we went out to the garden to weed, half of the weeds were thrown into a bin for composting and the other half were gathered and taken home for dinners. If there is one thing the students are, it is resourceful. They do not waste food in any way, and they are quick to identify edible plants, which I have known as “weeds.” The students make use of all sorts of greens that I have never tried. Some of the students would leave the garden with bunches of clover, which I found to have a striking, tangy taste that mellows out when cooked. Other students gathered lambsquarters or even carrot-top greens. One particular day, a student began stripping the leaves off a honey locust tree next to the garden. As I am the “garden teacher,” a few other students naturally asked me if the leaves were edible. I had never heard of anyone eating these leaves, so I advised the students not to eat them—better safe than sorry, right? (I’m quite certain the leaves were taken home and eaten anyway.) That night, I did some research on the honey locust tree and did not find anything conclusive, as far as leaf edibility goes. I continued to see students pick leaves though, and after inquiring, I learned that one of the students in particular likes to cook the leaves at home, mixing them with water, oil, salt, and spices. Google may not have the final results in, but it seems that Arlington Hills students do, and the honey locust leaves continue to be consumed--for better or worse--by a number of the students. My most recent efforts to find more information on the honey locust, has revealed that scientists are considering the possibility that the leaves contain anti-cancer compounds so perhaps the students are on to something after all.
I know I will not forget these lessons I learned from the students and I hope that, likewise, they will not forget their lessons either. From the students, to the staff, to the ever-helpful custodian, my time at Arlington Hills has been graced with the kindness of the people there, as this place is quite obviously more than just a school, but a community that forges lasting ties and is sincerely invested in one another’s wellbeing. While my internship time at the school has come to an end, I do not really believe in goodbyes, only transitions that all relationships take at some point. Though I will no longer stop in every Wednesday, I am certain I will still be in touch with Arlington Hills in some way, whether it is checking in via blog updates, emailing staff to say hello, or crossing paths with students at a store or on the bus. I am most grateful for my experience at the school and everyone who helped to make my time so worthwhile. I will truly miss the community and will always think back on my days there with fond memories. Thank you, Arlington Hills, for sharing such a lovely summer with me!