An Edible Learning Garden in Brooklyn

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By Arlene Hirst / Published by Dwell
New York firm WORKac taps into society’s increased focus on heathy eating with a school’s learning garden.

In 1995, pioneering chef Alice Waters unleashed a major trend when she turned a barren Berkeley, California, school yard into a place where children could cultivate plants and learn about growing and preparing food. Today there are hundreds of Waters’s inspired Edible Schoolyard programs in all 50 states. One of the latest opened at P.S. 216 in Brooklyn in December 2013. WORKac, the New York architectural office of Amale Andraos and Dan Wood, designed the glowing structure with raised beds, a greenhouse, a chicken coop, a cistern, and an indoor kitchen classroom.

An Edible Learning Garden in Brooklyn - Photo 1 of 3 - WORKac designed a teaching classroom at Brooklyn’s P.S. 216 elementary school that channels runoff rainwater from its roof for reuse in its mobile greenhouse.

WORKac designed a teaching classroom at Brooklyn’s P.S. 216 elementary school that channels runoff rainwater from its roof for reuse in its mobile greenhouse.

The back-to-the-earth educational movement has also grown beyond Waters. In 2011, The Kitchen, a sustainable café in Boulder, Colorado, began producing Learning Gardens—modular plant beds with built-in irrigation systems. The units, designed by Kitchen cofounder Jen Lewin, are easy to install in large or small plots and are already in use at 167 schools.

An Edible Learning Garden in Brooklyn - Photo 2 of 3 - A glass enclosure (left) slides off the main structure in warmer months to open up the garden—which contains 1,600 square feet of soil—to air and sun.

A glass enclosure (left) slides off the main structure in warmer months to open up the garden—which contains 1,600 square feet of soil—to air and sun.

Educators throughout the country are seizing the initiative. Austin’s Casis Elementary School, which already had a thriving organic garden, hired Baldridge Architects to create an outdoor schoolroom to provide shelter and work space for alfresco garden projects. The resulting design, easily prefabricated, can be built anywhere. The three Rs—reading, writing, and arithmetic—now have two new companions: roots and raised beds. 

An Edible Learning Garden in Brooklyn - Photo 3 of 3 - Designer Jen Lewin helped found The Kitchen, an environmentally friendly, community-based restaurant in Colorado, for which she designed a series of modular, raised planting beds.

Designer Jen Lewin helped found The Kitchen, an environmentally friendly, community-based restaurant in Colorado, for which she designed a series of modular, raised planting beds.