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Review: De Schooltuin (The Schoolgarden) (2020)

De Schooltuin
(The Schoolgarden)

Directed by: Mark Verkerk | 60 minutes |

In 2020 they will be 100 years old in Amsterdam: the school gardens. Started in 1920 because of the great poverty in neighborhoods such as the Jordaan: this enabled students to contribute to the household with the proceeds from their vegetable garden. Every child in Amsterdam and in other cities was entitled to a school garden. And for a hundred years this initiative has proved to be a wonderful example of effective practical education. Children not only get exercise and fresh air, they learn that lettuce does not grow in the supermarket and thus gain respect for nature. In the sixty-minute documentary ‘De schooltuin’ by Mark Verkerk (‘The New Wilderness’, ‘The Wild City’) we follow the cycle of the school gardens a bit like ‘The New Wilderness’ for a year. From preparing the soil to the first steps of the curious and somewhat insecure children on their own piece of garden, to planting potatoes and harvesting the largest winter carrot (822 grams!).

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the images. ‘The school garden’ is a nice mix of educational fly-on-the-wall images, in which we witness the infectious enthusiasm of the senior groups of various primary schools in Amsterdam, and nature shots, where the range of garden residents stands out. A fox, a hedgehog, bunnies, various birds, including even a kingfisher, a grass snake and of course lots of crawling and flying insects: the gardens in the middle of the city offer a rich and varied living environment for these animals.

What is also strong about this fine is that it provides some context. Because we can see the delight of the children in the open air when they pull a nice red radish out of the ground, but what happens to the freshly harvested vegetables when they put them on the kitchen counter at home? Also nice to see is the variety of reactions. For example, on the crickets that threaten the potato harvest. One child is horrified by the special animal, the other begs if he can hold it for a while. The reactions to the harvested and prepared food – because sometimes the children cook in the garden with the help of a cook – also vary widely. One person finds the salad of grated kohlrabi, apple, lemon, mint and olive oil very tasty, the other says with an angry look: ‘it tastes like onion!’ ‘The School Garden’ is inspiring, and educational.

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