“And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it”—Genesis 2:15, KJV. What a marvelous portion of Scripture! Before sin entered the world, the first work God gave Adam and Eve was gardening. We shouldn’t overlook the significance of this work, then and now.
Through this beneficial labor, God would open to Adam and Eve the beauty of His creation and character. We are told that through this work and interaction with the Creator, “their capacity to know, to enjoy, and to love would continually increase”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 51. This is Seventh-day Adventist education at the core, and it perfectly aligns with the goal of recreating the image of God in our children.
Adventist education saw major reforms sweep across the world from the 1890s to the 1920s. They purchased large tracts of land and formed schools with the object of agriculture in mind. Some of these schools were Avondale (Australia), Solusi (Africa), and Oakwood and Madison College (North America). Not only were these programs to provide industry, but they would prepare our young people for the mission field and, potentially, a career. It would also be a vital part of the curriculum or what Ellen G. White would call the “A, B, and C of education given in our schools”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 179.
It is not by chance, then, that many of our schools in the Atlantic Union are seeing a resurgence of offering practical training in the area of agriculture. Many administrators, teachers, pastors, and church members have been instrumental in bringing our Atlantic Union schools back to our Eden roots.
Whispering Pines, a junior academy in Old Westbury, New York, is reaping the benefits of having a large school garden. The vision has been a team effort, with the school board chair, principal, and pastor leading the way. Each student in the school has the opportunity to learn not only theory, but best of all, practice. The vegetables planted, cultivated, and harvested are consumed by the students and also sold to support the program. They are devising plans to add an orchard with a variety of fruits.
Estabrook school, in Plainfield, New Hampshire, is also taking a 21st-century approach to gardening. Their science lab is set up to start seedlings, using both the hydroponic method and aquaponics method. They also recently built a cold/solar-frame miniature greenhouse so they can continue to grow hardy crops during the winter months.
Many schools and constituents desire to get back to our roots but are discouraged because of a lack of adequate growing space. Where there is a will, there is a way! Bermuda Institute has seen their gardening class expand each year, and it is so popular with the students that it is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. With the island only being 21 square miles, land is at a premium. With no adequate space on campus, the administration and teachers have an agreement with the Bermuda National Trust. The students were allowed to clear a wooded area and now have eight plots to use! The produce is both sold and used for their lunch program.
The benefits of each of these programs exceed the harvest they reap. Each of these schools has found that offering an agriculture class develops the whole child. It promotes health, appeals to all learning styles, and best of all, it reveals the loveliness of our Creator, God. Please consider helping a Seventh-day Adventist school get back to its roots!
Trevor Schlisner is the Northern New England Conference superintendent of schools.
This article first appeared in the March 2019 issue of The Atlantic Union Gleaner magazine, page 8.