From all of us at Cornell Garden-Based Learning:
It has been two weeks since we read Caitlin Flanagan’s article Cultivating Failure: How school gardens are cheating our most vulnerable students published in the January/February issue of the Atlantic. Over fourteen days have passed and we’re still processing it—through emails with long-distance colleagues, conversations around the office and the dinner table, reading thoughtful responses on blogs and through list servs.
No doubt the article is flawed and misinformed, leaving many understandably disappointed, both in Flanagan’s lack of good research, as well as Atlantic’s poor editorial judgment. There is a significant body of research to support garden-based learning, some of which points to increased academic achievement, in addition to the myriad other benefits, from improved nutrition to enhanced environmental awareness. As a research-based program devoted to sharing highlights of that work with others, to support their programs as they struggle to convince administrators of the value of their work, and to seek further funding for programs not typically well endowed, we make an effort to keep tabs on this exciting, emerging body of work. You’ll find it on our website.
While Flanagan’s article left us somewhat bewildered, we are uplifted by the incredible response of children, youth and adult program partners nation-wide. There has been an outcry, and an outpouring of response. We believe where there is energy, there is opportunity. Here is our hope: that the constructive conversations continue well beyond the blink of this abrasive article. Let’s use this momentum to build new partnerships, gather more research, and share the wonders of garden-based learning with audiences who are not yet familiar with the value.
We have collected some responses below. Let us know if there are any you think we should add. We are particularly interested in responses from students who have been involved in school garden programs. What do they have to say to this article?
Wishing you vibrant garden experiences and looking forward to continued conversation,
Cornell Garden-Based Learning
School garden programs are vital to students’ education and health
Barbara Damrosch, The Washington Post
Life Lab Staff Letters to the Editor of The Atlantic
John Fisher, Life Lab
School Gardeners Strike Back
Corby Kummer, The Atlantic
Failure to Cultivate: A response to Caitlin Flanagan on school gardens
Kurt Michael Friese, Civil Eats
A Farm Student’s Perspective on Education
Abundant Table Organic Farm Project
Alice Waters—Edible Schoolyard Takedown in the ‘Atlantic Monthly’: Wrong, wrong, wrong
Ed Levine, Serious Eats
Response to Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic
Abby Jaramillo, Urban Sprouts
Thoughts on the Atlantic’s Attack on School Gardens
Tom Philpott, Grist
In Defense of School Gardens
Susan Harris, Garden Rant
Atlantic Gets it Wrong: School gardens cultivate minds not failure
Jesse Kurtz-Nicholl, Center for a Livable Future
School Gardens Across the Nation, and a Resource List for Starting Your Own
Adriana Velez, Civil Eats
School Adds Weeding to Reading and Writing
Kim Severson, New York Times
The Garden, A Master Teacher
Kirsten Berhan, Life Lab