Cult of Pedagogy Search

How One Teacher Started an Urban Gardening Revolution


Can't find what you are looking for? Contact Us

Listen to my interview with Stephen Ritz (transcript):


It’s such a simple word: garden. Gardens are nice. Maybe your mom has one. Maybe you have one. Perhaps you or someone you know is currently trying to give away bags of zucchini from a garden that’s producing more than one family cares to eat.

But put a garden in a school, and it becomes so much more. Every year, more schools are discovering the educational potential of gardens. This is astoundingly true in the case of Stephen Ritz, a South Bronx educator who has developed a school-based gardening program you have to see to believe. I can’t possibly describe it as well as he does, so here: Get yourself a cup of coffee, set aside fifteen minutes, and watch his TED Talk.

Hang on tight; it’s a fast ride.


Since the time this talk was given, Ritz, his team, and his students have built the Green Bronx Machine even further, offering culinary classes, a summer camp, and both indoor and outdoor gardens that teach students and help to feed the community.

A cooking lesson from former White House pastry chef, Bill Yosses.


Keys to Success

It’s clear that Ritz has roughly the same energy as about ten ordinary mortals, and this seems to be a big factor in how he has been able to continually iterate and push forward with this program. But others can start similar projects in their own schools by sticking to these principles:

Students participate in every stage of the growing process, including the harvest.


One of seven Tower Garden systems in the Indoor Teaching Farm


Learn More


There’s more where this came from.
Join our mailing list and get weekly tips, tools, and inspiration—in quick, bite-sized packages—all geared toward making your teaching more effective and fun. You’ll get access to our members-only library of free downloads, including 20 Ways to Cut Your Grading Time in Half the e-booklet that has helped thousands of teachers save time on grading. Come on in!!



  1. Mr. Ritz is so full of verve and passion! It is understandable how his students and, subsequently, community were able to get behind the initiative from the beginning. I love that his TEDTalk showcased his students and community; their story is truly inspiring!

  2. Sharon Andrews says:

    Hi just Love it we have started a small herb garden and plant garden at our school and have hopes of another garden of fruit trees soon. The students love it and have the most amazing fun when outdoors in the garden.

  3. Emily says:

    I love this! What an incredible story! Sí se puede!

  4. What an amazing program. The number of skills kids can learn from urban gardening – health, sustainability, compassion and care, teamwork – is astounding. I hope this program spreads far and wide!

  5. Margaret Howell says:

    Awesome 😊 sooo wonderful!

  6. Tai says:

    Hi Jenn,

    Environmental and Sustainable education has been a passion of mine since I started 5 years ago. I’ve always had a passion for gardening and growing up in poverty, the garden was one of our only sources of fresh food.
    We have a large agriculture program at my school where students learn about plant biology, soil, and business through the sale of plants in the Spring. We also regularly partner with the local community garden and maintain a bed of veggies that are available for those in need in our community. Students develop a host of skills including communication, critical & creative thinking, empathy, and social responsibility.
    Living rurally I can definitely agree that making local connections has helped us get where we are today. The businesses and residents of our area are always willing to volunteer their time or financially support programs, especially those addressing food insecurity.

    Thanks for bringing attention to such a worthy cause!

    • Margaret Harris-Shoates says:

      Thanks for sharing this, Tai! It sounds like the agriculture program at your school is doing a lot to make an impact on both the students and the community!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.