Want tough kids? Get them into gardening!

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Nature affects people, and people in turn affect nature. Kids who are going to fight for the environment need to be ready to get their hands dirty.

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Have you heard of General Jodhpur? He wanted his army to be the best, until the day he fell from his horse onto a beautiful field.

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He ended up falling in love with nature, and from that day on, the general vowed to shift his obsession from building the most admirable army in the world to building the most beautiful country in the world.

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He ordered soldiers to go back to their original jobs of fishing and farming and to turn the army camp into a city with schools and parks where children could play.

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The General, a picture book published in 1961 has an environmental theme that is still relevant today. But nowadays, you don’t need to be a general to make the world a better place, as a group of volunteer parents recently showed at our neighborhood school with The Outdoor Classroom project.

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They transformed an underused school space into a revitalized green place blooming with flowers and vegetables, where children can enjoy more contact with nature, where they can benefit from a new source of education, and where their parents, siblings, even grandparents can join them to participate and share in a positive experience.

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Through the garden, students are learning basic facts about where food comes from, and teachers are discovering a few things as well. As one teacher put it, “This is the first time I’ve eaten radishes!”

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The Outdoor Classroom took about two years of perseverance and faith to come to fruition. It benefited from the expertise of volunteers, a Bill James Environmental Grant, sponsors like Whole Foods and AREVA, and successful examples provided by nearby schools.

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Projects like this one make me think of the General’s soldiers, who used discipline and hard work to realize a new vision. With The Outdoor Classroom and other efforts like it, we can help raise not only flowers and vegetables, but also the next generation of Nature’s protectors.

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