Of watermelons, cucumbers and our very own pesto

Imagine if you will, a terrace garden in the heart of South Mumbai. Giant planters filled with plants, vegetables, herbs and even fruit. Dotted with the bright sunshine yellow of flowering marigolds. Ripening ears of corn pointing to the sun. Large pumpkins and watermelons sprawled on the vine. Sounds magical, doesn’t it?
Thanks to the hard work of our Gardening Committee and the dedication of our students over the past four months, our B.D. Somani Primary School terrace garden is a thriving reality – much loved by all our students, teachers (and the occasional visitor) and an integral part of our Primary School curriculum across all grades.
With produce from our garden, students have cooked and eaten bhindi curry and methi theplas and cucumber salad. They’ve drunk refreshing lemongrass coolers and made delicious pesto. Now everyone’s waiting for the juicy watermelons to ripen!
An initiative championed by Miss Zoë, our garden was started to give our students – urban children to the core – an understanding of how things grow. What it means to get your hands dirty and create something. How nature works and the long journey their food takes before it reaches their tables. That gardening is not just gardening – it involves science, math, measurement, observation, research, documentation, cooking – all the skills our students practice every day.
Gardening at B.D. Somani is also about teamwork. Our students come together for the entire lifecycle of a plant. From planting seeds to watering plants to observing their growth to harvesting the produce to cooking with it in their classrooms, they accomplish all tasks together. They’re learning not just how to work with nature but also with each other.
At orientation this year, Miss Zoë spoke about how education actually is about drawing out that which lies within for each person. And our garden is a tactile extension of this philosophy for our students. They learn how a seed contains everything needed for a plant to grow and prosper and then they observe first-hand how a seed transforms into a plant with a little love and a lot of care.
Having always only seen the finished product, our students had no awareness of all the effort that goes into growing plants. Growing their food has been a revelation for all of them. For example, many of them couldn’t even believe their eyes when they discovered bhindi grows pointing upwards. They have been amazed that their garden has attracted ladybirds, worms and honey bees.
Our gardening time has become an essential part of the holistic learning experience for our students. They’ve been writing about it, measuring daily growth, calculating the area occupied by each crop, observing and discovering. They are also learning responsibility and discipline. They water their plants every day, taking turns and making sure their plants receive the exact amount of water they need to thrive.
So if anyone needs an amazing recipe for home-made basil pesto, just ask any of our Primary School students. They will give you chapter and verse on how to plant, water, nurture and grow your basil until it is ready for picking and then tell you how to turn all that basil into the most lip-smacking, delicious pesto you will ever taste.
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