Sowing the Seeds of Education and Tolerance

Sustainably built Badger Rock Middle School teaches students how to live in harmony with the environment and each other.

Can you grow and nurture a more resilient life by growing and nurturing seedlings in a garden? If you ask my tour guide, Kate Stalker, project director for the Center for Resilient Cities, then the answer is a definite “yes.” After touring Badger Rock Middle School, it’s easy to understand why.

This fall, Badger Rock Middle School opened its doors to 100 middle school students in the Resilience Research Center (RRC) at the corner of Rimrock and Badger Roads. This charter school, part of phase one of the RRC project, is in a class all its own, utilizing cutting edge, sustainable, and green everything. For example, two massive tanks, each the size of a school bus, buried outside collect 45,000 gallons of rainwater runoff from the building, enough to water all of RRC’s growing areas for a full year. The center also supports a sizeable greenhouse with two tanks for raising freshwater fish.

Inside, the overall design allows natural daylight to pour in, and there are skylight tubes throughout. These tubes give off so much light that a dimmer had to be installed on certain tubes upstairs so that the media screen could be viewed properly. The heating and cooling for the facility comes from a geothermal field system, and nearly all of the fixtures in the school were reclaimed from other unused facilities or donated by generous organizations and individuals.

What really excited me as a chef were the gardens where students, and eventually other organizations and neighborhood residents, will sustainably grow their own food. As a part of BRMS’s philosophy of employing multidisciplinary, project-based learning, the students will have ownership for growing and preparing healthy food for one another.

Each class has its own garden where students will work in the growing medium (not soil—Growing Power provides a worm casting/compost blend), plant seeds, nurture plants, harvest the produce, and prepare it on site. There will eventually be rooftop gardens for more growing space.

In today’s world of plastic-wrapped meats and pre-boxed everything, it’s important that children learn where their food comes from and how much work it takes to bring the food from seed to plate. BRMS is helping students connect the dots between healthy food and healthy communities.

The Badger Rock Middle School is an inclusive environment, too. On the school’s website, the following statement is posted under the “Highlights” section: “Every child is valued for their strengths—including their family culture.” Wow—a philosophy of inclusiveness and intrinsic worth for every child and person who comes to BRMS.

Phase two (the design is underway, but is dependent on fundraising) of the RRC includes more space for the neighborhood center, research labs for multiple sustainability and green projects, community gardens, orchards, a café, and more.

To learn more about the RRC, its lead partners (Center for Resilient Cities, Will Allen and Growing Power, etc.), community partners, or how you can financially keep this project moving ahead, visit www.resilientcities.org/Resilient_Cities/PROFILE.html.