From San Francisco to Chicago, Urban Farming Schools Appear

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

A school in San Francisco is about to become the first urban farming public education setting in the country as students at the Golden Bridges School learn about the role that urban farms can play in the community.

Katie Pohlman of EcoWatch writes that the new campus will combine indoor and outdoor learning areas and include various advantageous and environmentally friendly features.

The school will be moved to a property that is already an urban farm, begun six years ago by Caitlyn Galloway, according to the San Francisco Examiner. It was Galloway’s hope to give the community proof that urban farming could be a viable business option while also creating unity within the neighborhood.

Galloway succeeded, and she now sells enough produce from her Little City Gardens farm to cover her farming budget and to give partial incomes to herself and another gardener. Her farm supplies produce to local restaurants, and Golden Bridges School students often assist Galloway on her urban farm.

Now the school has bought her land and is planning to build its new campus there. Currently, the school serves students in K-2 but is looking forward to adding grades 3-8 at the new venue.

But the residents living in the surrounding neighborhood, Mission Terrace, have questions and concerns. Traffic control, noise pollution, and the possibility of increased flooding are the main worries. Architect Stanley Saitowitz of Natoma Architects, Inc. and the school are taking these matters seriously and have designed systems for managing floods and are addressing sound control as well. Saitowitz is handling the concerns in a predictable way – with plants.

The entrance to the school will be built back from the sidewalk to provide a community meeting area and green space. The building itself will slope up to mimic a hill and will be covered with plants to resemble the green space in front. In fact, 74% of the school’s footprint will remain open for students to play and learn.

If civilization wants to ensure a sustainable future where citizens are connected to their food and the land, it is crucial that a generation of children understand how to be responsible stewards of the earth, writes Jill Fehrenbacher of Inhabitat, who says this is the reason the urban farm school is vital.

The students will study an ecology farm curriculum based on Waldorf Education, which is focused on creativity, learning-by-doing, crafts, storytelling, and the natural world. Waldorf is also significantly against plastic, electronics, and technological devices. It is based on the 19th-century philosopher Rudolph Steiner’s vision to develop the “whole individual.”

The Golden Bridges School also has a social justice vision that supports a “pay-what-you-can” tuition formula. Its goal is to develop an economic diversity among the student body. One-third of the student body attends the school on scholarship, and another third of the families are providing tuition assistance.

The multi-purpose room, an atrium-like facility, will serve as an area for lunchtime and recess. The room can be closed off for performances or classroom usage. The Golden Bridges School website adds that the rear yard will serve as the kindergarten play area, an orchard, an edible garden, a chicken coop, an outdoor kitchen and eating spot, and a “wild” space for classroom nooks.

And in Chicago, the Academy for Global Citizenship, a charter school, with 90% minority students in a Southwest neighborhood, is also building a new campus that will include a three-acre farm and renewable systems. The school will produce more power than the school will use.

Fast Company’s Co.Exist site writer Adele Peters reports that the school already serves 100% organic food. It is the first in Chicago to do so. When the new school is built, many of the meals will come from the campus’ outside gardens.

The building, designed by Chicago’s Studio Gang architects, will collect and store water and have solar, geothermal, and wind energy sources. The building alone will be a STEM lab.

The school will also offer services to other schools that choose to emulate the architectural design as a model.