City puts some green behind the greenery for local school gardens

Two local schools are on the receiving end of mini-grants of upto $2,000 that are intended to help their gardens grow.

P.S. 127 McKinley Park School and I.S. 259 William McKinley weretwo of 36 public and charter schools awarded the funds as part of acitywide school gardens initiative called Grow To Learn that aimsto support efforts to use gardens as classroom space to help teacheverything from science, math and health to teamwork andorganizational skills.

The grant funds also make them eligible to receive materials andexpert advice from GreenThumb, the city Parks Department’scommunity garden division.

The kids are bouncing off the walls because they know about it[coming], said Jennifer Hicks, the eighth grade science teacher atMcKinley Junior High who applied for the grant. They keep askingwhen they can go outside. In October, we already dissect freshflowers in class. Now they’ll get to see the plants growing… Thenin spring, we address environment and ecology.

The $1,400 grant has yet to arrive, but Hicks already has a gameplan for how to use it, starting with bulbs for a flower garden sothe eighth graders will have something solid to take with them whenthey graduate, and then expansion to an herb garden and a shadegarden.

Part of curriculum is to see how plants reproduce, explainedHicks. The seventh grade curriculum is how plants produce food.You can tell you’re in [a shade garden] when plants have hugeleaves… to compete for every drop of sunlight. This would help[students] understand photosynthesis.

As a bonus, the outdoor activity and awareness of where theirfood comes from might help kids raised on processed andpre-prepared foods to make healthier choices, she said. There areso many benefits and ways you can go at it, from cultural andmedicinal to environmental and reproductive.

Over at P.S. 127, principal Agatha Alicandro, teachers and acommittee of parents are hoping to use their $1,400 grant as seedmoney to expand on the in-class herb boxes that they and studentsstarted this past spring.

We’ve been holding planting events, starting with herbs – theygrow fast and are interesting and affordable, said VanessaAja-Sigmon, whose five-year-old son is in the first grade. Overseveral Family Fridays, when parents are invited to engage in theirchild’s class, we had a Pizza Herb Box, planted with basil,oregano and parsley, a Mint Herb Box… and a Salsa Box withcilantro, onions and peppers.

The parents hope that the money will cover the cost of launchinga formal garden area in the back [with] raised beds and tables fora classroom area of experimenting, planting and cooking, saidAja-Sigmon. We also want to start a garden club, get the kids toname it, and get fifth graders to regularly and directly engage inthe area… as well as to use food as a common denominator to bringpeople together to talk about foods eaten in people’sfamilies.

There are nearly 400 school gardens in public schools throughoutthe five boroughs, up 15 percent from a year ago. The steadyincrease comes as schools, businesses, celebrities and evenpoliticians become more aware and vocal about diabetes, childhoodobesity and other nutrition-related chronic diseases.

The mini-grant program is sponsored by Bank of America and theDoris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.