More than half of New York City’s public schools now have a school garden – be they container gardens or for those buildings short on space, bottle planters in classrooms.
Around 700 sustainable gardens in schools across the city now exist thanks to Grow to Learn – a collaborative initiative formed by local nonprofit, GrowNYC, and The Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC.
Schools are using these green spaces as teaching tools, hands-on laboratories, and a place of respite to promote physical and emotional wellbeing among both schoolchildren and teachers.
Some of the most popular vegetables and fruit that are being grown in New York City schools include tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, eggplant, mint, collard greens, and herbs. At some schools, grapes and strawberries are cultivated, as well.
Research has found that green schoolyards — which are bursting with nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables — provide children, families and their communities a “healthy environment” for relaxation and play.
While gardens in schools are not a new thing in New York City, one of the challenges in sustaining the gardens in the past was due to a lack of co-ordination, according to Grow to Learn.
The solution, according to Grow to Learn, is to partner with other agencies to support their efforts of creating successful and sustainable school garden models. Hence Grow to Learn now work with local government agencies, including the Department of Education and Parks Department.
Grow to Learn say: “Grow to Learn supports schools across NYC to grow vibrant learning gardens. From wellness programming to community outreach, hands-on STEM to social and emotional skill building, we believe that gardens are an invaluable tool for teaching and learning for the classroom, the cafeteria, and beyond.
The Grow to Learn program helps schools create a vision and plan for a sustainable garden. Registered schools can attend free workshops that cover everything from how to build a garden bed to how to connect the garden to maths curriculum.
Schools are also eligible to receive free garden materials, access to an extensive online resource library and garden network, and apply for $500 to $2,000 in mini-grant funding to start or expand a school garden.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. Follow Rosa on Twitter.