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Biography & Autobiography Educators

The Power of a Plant

A Teacher's Odyssey to Grow Healthy Minds and Schools

by (author) Stephen Ritz

Rodale Books
Initial publish date
May 2017
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2017
    List Price

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InThe 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 mindsetsfor 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.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Stephen Ritz, founder of Green Bronx Machine, has devoted his teaching career to improving health and academic results for children in the South Bronx. Now he is partnering with organizations from Canada to Dubai and Columbia to Cairo to bring the power of a plant to children and communities everywhere. A Top 10 Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize and one of NPR’s 50 Greatest Teachers, he has presented at the White House on two separate occasions and had his classroom modeled by the U.S. Botanic Garden. His work has been featured by major media and documentaries, including Michael Pollan’sIn Defense of Food, and his TEDx talk has been viewed over one million times. Dubbed the Pied Piper of Peas, Ritz and his family reside in the Bronx and continue to farm with children all year round. His demonstration classroom, the National Health, Wellness, and Learning Center, is located at Community School 55 in the South Bronx.

Editorial Reviews

“Education should unleash human potential, which is infinite in its capacity to create, know, and solve every conceivable problem. Stephen Ritz has opened a door to this unbounded field of possibilities, which he elegantly describes inThe Power of a Plant.”
Deepak Chopra, New York Times bestselling author and author ofYou are the Universe

“Here’s proof positive that one person can make a difference. Stephen Ritz uses food plants—Green Bronx Machine—to transform kids and their school environments. You can do this too!”
Marion Nestle, professor of food, nutrition, and public health at New York University, and author ofWhat to Eat

“Building a new and effective Good Food system is everyone’s obligation, and it starts with education. Stephen’s epic story teaches us how to turn every community into a place that nourishes bodies and minds. He’s my hero.
Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power and author ofThe Good Food Revolution

“Stephen Ritz is one of the most innovative, genuine, and tenacious educators I have ever met. He is the kind of superhero we need standing for our kids and their well-being. He uses gardening to inspire, challenge, and get kids growing in ways that transform their lives and communities. His story will touch your heart and propel you to plant a seed!”
Nona Evans, president and executive director of Whole Kids Foundation

“In his new bookThe Power of a Plant, Stephen Ritz weaves a beautiful personal tale of how boundless passion, purpose, and hope can move generations of students in New York’s tough South Bronx to realize their untapped human potential. Stephen uses the power of kindness and purpose to not only teach kids about the world but to create a better world for all of us.”
Daniel Lubetzky, CEO and founder of KIND Snacks

“The only thing bigger than the impact Stephen has had helping countless students understand the importance of their food choices is his infectious personality.The Power of a Plantoutlines the remarkable work he has done to date and provides a blueprint for how educators around the world can implement his learnings effectively.”
Tom Colicchio, chef and owner of Crafted Hospitality

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