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Tian is a thoroughly enjoyable 5th grader who loves math, science (though he says it is sometimes hard), and writing. He knows all about the hard work it took to make Camden Street Learning Garden’s Second Saturday Workshop, Teach Me to Taco, a reality.

Tian walked to the community garden on Camden Street across the street from his home to assist Katie Murray, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Raleigh Urban Agriculture programs manager, and Geoff Seelen, chef and farmer at Piedmont Biofarm, prepare for the arrival of workshop participants.

tian-katie

The bond Tian has developed with Katie and Geoff is obvious by the way he proudly raises his chin and sits up a little straighter every time he mentions their names – especially when it’s to let you know he is their assistant and their friend.

Tian put in a lot of work that morning – shredding and seasoning cooked chicken “with paprika stuff Katie made;” cleaning, chopping, and frying veggies; and slicing an impressive variety of fruit that included some that many 5th graders have never heard of before let alone tasted.

tian

He learned a lot, too, while assisting Katie and Geoff, and he confidently assured me he could now make yummy tacos at home for his family. I asked him how learning to cook healthy food helps him in school and he quickly said, “In science class,” and we began talking about how cooking is sometimes like science class.

Tian and I talked about more than tacos and fruit and spices and Katie. He told me he likes to write stories, about a great play he made in his football game the week before, that he made a car in science class that earned an A, and about the time the police officers that visit the garden came to his school to play basketball.

We also reminisced about out time painting vegetables on the tool shed – Tian remembering exactly which fruits and vegetable images we had painted together. Tian told me I had missed the tastiest Second Saturday workshop – blueberry grilled chicken – and I told Tian that since the last time we hung out I had gotten married to the man who taught him to cut down weeds using a string trimmer a couple months ago; he said he was happy for us.

tool-shed

Chatting with Tian showed me how the Camden Street Learning Garden isn’t simply a provider of soil and seeds and cooking classes; it is a community member in its own right with the role of engaging all other community members – schools, law enforcement, residents, local organizations – bringing together an eclectic collection of ingredients to create a beautiful community that supports and nourishes all its members.

Marcelle Clowes

Marcelle Clowes is owner of Moonflower Creative, a company that provides a variety of storytelling services for non-profit organizations.