The Power of a Plant: A Teacher’s Odyssey to Grow Healthy Minds and Schools

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An inspiring story about how incorporating gardening and plants into teaching curriculum moved the graduation rate of students from 17% to 100% and improved attendance to 93% in his South Bronx high school.

In The Power of a Plant, globally acclaimed teacher Stephen Ritz shows readers how, in one of the nation’s poorest communities, his students thrive in school and in life by growing, cooking, eating, and sharing the bounty of their green classroom. His innovative program began by accident. When a flower broke up a brawl among burly teenagers at a tough South Bronx high school, Stephen saw a teachable moment to connect students with nature. By using plants as an entry point for all learning, he witnessed nothing short of a transformation. Attendance soared from 40 to 93 percent. Disciplinary issues plummeted. In a school with a 17 percent graduation rate and high crime rate, every one of his students finished school and stayed out of jail. More than 50,000 pounds of vegetables later, he has figured out how to bring the magic of gardening into the heart of the school day for students of all ages.

The Power of a Plant, shares Stephen’s practical solutions for growing his favorite crop: organically grown citizens. His approach has attracted attention from the White House to the Vatican. For anyone worried about rising childhood obesity rates, better access to healthy, affordable food, and job opportunities to lift families out of poverty, he has hard-earned answers. With irrepressible humor and a veteran teacher’s wisdom, Stephen relates his own journey hoping that readers will be inspired to “make epic happen” in their own communities. If it works in the Bronx, it can work anywhere.

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