Normally, as Superintendent of Bloomfield Hills Schools, I speak to the community about student growth, unraveling the complexities of standardized testing or showcasing our efforts in maximizing the growth of each and every student. Today, however, is a different story. This is a story about a little community garden and what I learned during my time in it.
My experience with the garden started, perhaps, a bit naively. I had virtually no gardening experience. Fortunately, my wife, Cynthia, had considerably more, and together we developed an emerging curiosity about the prospect of nurturing a community garden plot. So, when the opportunity arose to utilize one of the 79 plots in the Bowers School Farm Community Garden, we jumped at the chance.
For those unfamiliar, Bowers School Farm is a 96-acre working farm, owned and operated by Bloomfield Hills Schools. Students of all ages enjoy academic programming on the property during the school year and the site is home to hands-on camps in the summer. It is a bustling hub for the community and their signature community events draw thousands of visitors from all over the Bloomfield area.
My first May view of our garden plot was a 25’ by 25’ piece of dirt, staked out and awaiting our installation of a wood chip walking path around the perimeter. As I stood, surveying the empty soil, I began to dream of ripe tomatoes, hearty potatoes, and a bevy of garden vegetables flanked by rows of sunflowers. However, as I would soon learn, the potato bugs in the area enjoy potatoes as much as I do. As I grumbled over our lost potatoes, my fellow gardeners in neighboring plots shared secrets for protecting future crops, tips for yielding a bigger harvest, and a playful reassurance that these little setbacks are part of the gardening experience. They did not mock me for my naivete or shame me for my lost crop. Instead, they supported me with advice and, as the frustration eventually subsided, a shared smile.
Throughout the summer, we chatted in our gardens, sharing experiences, trading garden tools, and watering each other’s gardens during vacations. While my fellow gardeners shared their passion for gardening, they also shared life stories - personal moments, thoughts, and expressions. I saw their dedication and perseverance for gardening in the sometimes unforgiving Michigan climate and that’s when it hit me - the Community Garden is a mirror of our schools.
Like me, a new gardener in the community garden, our students face challenges. Like the unanticipated insects who got to my potatoes before I could enjoy them, our students experience unforeseen obstacles in their quest to complete a project or study for an important exam. Our students also come to school with their own personal stories, thoughts, and expressions. They carry their emotions and life experiences with them to class and those experiences have an impact on their achievement. And yet I see their dedication and perseverance, just as I saw in my fellow gardeners.
So, as we approach the 2018 - 2019 school year, I will fondly recall the support provided to me, a Community Garden newbie, and ensure our students enjoy the same support in their experience with Bloomfield Hills Schools. I am fortunate to have a team wholeheartedly dedicated to the support of all learners, backed by a sturdy foundation of social/emotional support programs and resources. Just like in the garden, we look out for one another in Bloomfield. I am proud to be a member of this community and I am proud to be a gardener of our community’s children, tending to their ever-changing needs as they grow and mature in a sometimes unforgiving global climate. May they all become the shining sunflowers we wish them to be.
- Bloomfield Forward
- Bowers Farm