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

by Stephen Ritz


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In The Power of a Plant, globally acclaimed teacher and self-proclaimed CEO (Chief Eternal Optimist) Stephen Ritz shows you 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.

What if we taught students that they have as much potential as a seed? That in the right conditions, they can grow into something great?

These are the questions that Stephen Ritz―who became a teacher more than 30 years ago―sought to answer in 2004 in a South Bronx high school plagued by rampant crime and a dismal graduation rate. After what can only be defined as a cosmic experience when a flower broke up a fight in his classroom, he saw a way to start tackling his school’s problems: plants. He flipped his curriculum to integrate gardening as an entry point for all learning and inadvertently created an international phenomenon. As Ritz likes to say, “Fifty thousand pounds of vegetables later, my favorite crop is organically grown citizens who are growing and eating themselves into good health and amazing opportunities.”

The Power of a Plant tells the story of a green teacher from the Bronx who let one idea germinate into a movement and changed his students’ lives by learning alongside them. Since greening his curriculum, Ritz has seen near-perfect attendance and graduation rates, dramatically increased passing rates on state exams, and behavioral incidents slashed in half. In the poorest congressional district in America, he has helped create 2,200 local jobs and built farms and gardens while changing landscapes and mindsets for residents, students, and colleagues. Along the way, Ritz lost more than 100 pounds by eating the food that he and his students grow in school. The Power of a Plant is his story of hope, resilience, regeneration, and optimism.





















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