The 24th Street Elementary School garden.
The 24th Street Elementary School garden.
Courtesy Garden School Foundation

Watch Michael Voltaggio Cook at the 24th Street School Garden + Garden School Foundation's Kickstarter Campaign

A quest to win over the hearts, minds and palates of young Angelenos? Maybe so. In collaboration with the Garden School Foundation and its new Kickstarter campaign to publish a guide to garden-based learning, chef Michael Voltaggio (ink., ink.sack.) will pitch in at the GSF's next community workday at the 24th Street Elementary School tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 17.

Voltaggio will be on hand from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. for a cooking demo using produce grown in the school's stunning garden, which in no small part derives its own character thanks to the consistent hum of the 10 freeway a few feet away and downtown L.A. clearly visible a few miles to the east. This one acre-plus plot is a study in contrasts and how cultivated dirt beats acres of blacktop concrete schoolyard jungle; in other words, it's a model of a needed refuge in the heart of the city that also functions as a living classroom.

And as for the kids? They love it, naturally.

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Voltaggio kicks off the series, with Mozza's Nancy Silverton (an early and instrumental GSF supporter), Animal's Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook, Amelia Saltsman, Cooks County's Roxana Jullapat and Evan Kleiman slated to inspire students and community members at cooking demonstrations and garden workdays planned for the coming months.

In addition to the chef demos, GSF has also launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish its garden-based elementary school curriculum to make the knowledge it's developed over the past seven years more widely available. GSF isn't the only organization that's put gardens smack dab in the middle of schoolyards, but executive director Julia Cotts explains how dedication "to sustained garden-based programming" means students learn more than just the basics about following the lifecycle of seeds and such -- which is clearly important, but the overall picture and benefits to integrating the lessons are much bigger than that.

"Gardens are an incredible tool to bring in all kids of community resources from farm boxes to nutrition classes and urban sustainability workshops," she explains. So the campaign aims to raise $25,000 to design and publish in book form the "first ever comprehensive, garden-based education curriculum" in the city of Los Angeles that can practically be put into action by other institutions and organizations.

After seven years of implementing what Cotts describes as "play-based, experiential and project-based learning," GSF has shown that getting your hands dirty and preparing for standardized tests aren't mutually exclusive educational endeavors. The parcel that's divided into a 3/4-acre kitchen garden and orchard, a 1/4-acre native Californian woodland garden, and a 1/8-acre reading garden, makes for a far more engaging and enriching environment merely than four walls surrounded by hardscape.

The results taste much better, too.

2055 W. 24th Street, West Adams; follow the Garden School Foundation on Twitter and Facebook.

Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Follow the author on Twitter at @TasterTotsLA.


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