Rooftop gardens growing throughout NYC public schools

3 Dec

4127236249_d2d5b01d43All over New York City, farms and gardens are sprouting up on public school roofs, backyard lots and even in their front yards!

Educators and lawmakers alike are beginning to put into practice what many supporters of an edible education have been advocating for years: giving kids an opportunity to plant, grow and harvest during the school day.

In a city where most blocks are lined with a few trees or the occasional flowerbed, schoolyard gardens provide urban students firsthand contact with nature, teaching them how food grows. By getting their hands dirty, they cultivate a more evolved knowledge of what constitutes healthy, natural eating, stressing the importance of fresh produce and the lifecycle of food. The importance of garden-based learning can also be viewed as a potential interactive solution to the ongoing obesity challenge that our country faces.

According to GreenThumb, the number of school-based gardens increased exponentially in the span of two years, from 40 to over 230! GreenThumb has been an excellent source for these initiatives, providing community gardens throughout the city with programming and technical support.

On Avenue B and 5th Street in the East Village, a brand new 2,400-square-foot garden opened at the beginning of the school year. Sitting atop a red-brick building that is home to three separate public schools, the Earth School, Public School 64 and Tompkins Square Middle School, this giant rooftop educational farm was designed by Michael Arad. Arad, also the architect behind the National September 11 Memorial further downtown, was inspired to create the Fifth Street Farm after learning that his own children (former students of the school) were in awe that their crisp and juicy apples once were plucked from trees.

The Horticultural Society of New York has been working with over two dozen schools since 1980, helping them with the design, construction, and education curriculum. The Hort’s mission “is to sustain the vital connection between people and plants” as they help out with the Earth School as well as more recently with four public schools in Queens.

At P.S. 41 in Greenwich Village, the school’s newly opened 15,000-square foot garden is more than a source of fresh produce for lunch, but has really become an outdoor classroom. By teaching kids about art, science, and math through the lens of gardening, their school-day routine becomes more of a hands-on experience.

This summer, for our third year, Butter Beans will be holding our Food & Garden Camp. With a similar mindset as these schools, our goal is to give your children a unique farm-to-table experience. From July to August, we will be covering the gamut of the food cycle from sprouting seeds and harvesting fresh food from rooftop gardens, to writing our very own cookbooks. Visit our website for more information.

For another great examples of greening schools, check out this edible schoolyard in East London, where lots of growing is taking place each day (check out their “lessons in loaf” pictures, they are wonderful!), and get to know Leave It Better, an organization that is accomplishing great feats in greening our local school communities as well.

Photos courtesy of kthread and growtolearn.org

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