The Approach is a toolkit to grow healthier school communities. It is about IMPLEMENTATION- creating positive impact on the ground by building a better school food system. This website outlines a process to form meaningful partnerships within schools and provides instructions to execute a collection of specific hands-on, project-based food education projects.

Rebel Gardeners are students, teachers, parents, administrators, chefs, farmers, business people, artists, cookbook readers, food blog writers, and eaters. We each have a unique role to play in growing a healthy future for our community.

Ask young people – “How would you create a healthier school? a healthier community?” Support young people by providing tools, role models, resources, structure, and space to explore and create answers to these questions. By working together we can cultivate a healthier and more prosperous future.

The first Rebel Gardeners project started at Pepper Middle School in Southwest Philadelphia through a partnership between the students, parents, teachers, and staff at the school, staff at the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative, and students and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. The focus of the project was working with a nearby community garden that was threatened to be demolished. Young people were trained as ethnographers and documented the old gardeners stories, and in the process learned how to grow food, and why to grow food, themselves.

Over the course of 3 years (Pepper closed in 2013), hundreds of middle school students became Rebel Gardeners- engaged in the project-based learning experience of growing, cooking, serving, selling, and eating good food – all the while writing/editing/filming/drawing/calculating/experimenting and constantly documenting their activities to learn from and teach others. Now schools throughout West Philadelphia are engaged in food education projects inspired by the Rebel Gardeners.

These food education projects are designed and implemented in urban neighborhood public schools- where lunches are wrapped in plastic, energy dense nutrient devoid food is impossible to avoid, and students harness the limitless energy needed to solve these problems and more.




Cooking the freshly harvested food from the garden takes up a lot of our time. In the Cooking section there are a series of projects that involve processing fresh foods into delicious snack and meals, all housed in a classroom we convert into a kitchen.
Growing our own fruits and vegetables without chemicals ensures our access to fresh, healthy foods. Maintaining the school garden provides ample opportunities for hands-on learning. In the Gardening section there are a series of projects that involve sowing seeds, harvesting veggies, and the transformation of a garden into an experiential outdoor classroom.
Beyond learning how to grow and cook our own fresh foods, we document our work to spread awareness and knowledge to our whole community. In the Media section there are a series of projects that involve journalistic writing, photography, and video editing.