Learning flourishes in Edible School Yard: Annette Sisco’s ‘Only in New Orleans’ column, March 21, 2013

It was a cool and sunny Saturday morning in Gentilly, and a couple of dozen volunteers could have been home enjoying the newspaper and a cup of coffee.

Instead, they were hard at work on the grounds of Arthur Ashe School, 1456 Gardena Drive — turning the soil, mulching and planting fruit trees.

It was part of the work of Edible School Yard to provide students at five FirstLine charter schools with campus gardens.

Rahn Broady was a chef in Napa Valley, Calif., before he came to New Orleans to serve as Edible School Yard program manager. Ashe has a teaching kitchen where students tasted garden-fresh greens this winter, he said.

“When they come into the teaching kitchen, the chef is very intentional making sure to use items grown in the garden,” Broady said. Meanwhile, students learn about measurement, basic food science and social studies, he said.

The garden is integral to science classes, he said, recalling a seventh-grade lesson. “The concept they were learning was really simple genetics — phenotypes and genotype,” he said. “But it’s a hard concept to grasp in the classroom.”

Teachers came up with a lesson that allowed students to cross-breed mint plants in the garden, Broady said. “They learn the hard concepts in the classroom, and they make the connection in the garden.”

The Edible School Yard program serves 2,500 New Orleans kids in kindergarten through 12th grade.

It gets a boost every year at the Garden Party Under the Stars, which takes place Thursday at the flagship ESY garden at Samuel J. Green Charter School, 2319 Valence St.

The fund-raiser features a cornucopia of restaurant treats, wine, silent auction and music; plus attendees will enjoy the beauty of the lush garden under a near-full moon. Tickets are $45.

It all goes to support learning in the gardens, said Claudia Barker, ESY New Orleans executive director.

“It’s botany, it’s life sciences,” she said. “It’s anything that we can integrate with the garden outside and the classroom inside.”

Fête Française

It’s time again for Fête Française, the annual Uptown celebration of all things French, sponsored by Ecole Bilingue de La Nouvelle-Orleans.

Fête goes beyond the usual school fair, with gourmet contributions from the city’s best restaurants and what has to be one of the most sophisticated silent auctions in town.

Yet it retains a family-oriented vibe — especially if your family loves mussels and french fries washed down by the Fête signature beverage, the sparkling citrus Joie de Vivre.

More than 50 food and art vendors, live music, rock climbing and games round out the day on the school grounds at 821 General Pershing St. Admission is free.

Fête is Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call (504) 896-4500.

Annette Sisco is community news editor. She can be reached at (504) 432-9257 or asisco@theadvocate.com.