A Growing Classroom

By: VLA Teacher, Aaron Kaczmarek

Tagged: school, history,

4 minutes, 45 seconds

A garden is a growing classroom. It is also a path to sustainability and self-reliance.  In many neighborhoods around Chicago, residents do not have access to healthy food.


Having healthy food accessible is a privilege, but my second graders have responded to this situation with a solution. “It doesn’t have to be this way.

If we grow food, we can share it with people who don’t have it. We can make things better.”

With this in mind, the second grade students and I have decided to take over the second story roof of the building that houses VLA to create our first school urban garden as a service learning project.


Self-reliance in food production is reconnecting many people to family farming methods through urban gardening. There is so much to learn from a garden.  From measuring plant growth in math to writing about life-processes in Science, a school garden opens up a variety of curriculum options.


The urban oasis is still in its starting phases,  and we expect for the garden to be operating by the weekend after next.  In the process of planning and building the garden, some very exciting partnerships have been forged. Village Leadership Academy students just began partnering with Whitney Young Magnet High School and their freshmen biology class to build our own school garden.

To start off, we visited Whitney Young’s greenhouse to learn about aquaponics and participate in a freshman biology class.


After writing letters and talking to various people for support and ideas, we have started to receive generous donations of soil, wood, and outside funds to produce our own self-sustainable food garden.

We have used math, science, and art to design the garden and estimate the things we will need.

With the materials for two garden beds already committed and student families signed up to help us build and plant, my students and I are excited to see how this garden grows to be integrated into the VLA curriculum.

Check out some more pictures of our second graders learning at Whitney Young.

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