NYC School Gardens in Every Borough: Brooklyn

by Cameron St. Germain

By Lani Furbank

School gardens are a growing presence in New York City, and for good reason. Research has shown that they are associated with a bounty of benefits for both students and teachers. A study in HortTechnology found that students with school garden programs in their science curriculum score significantly higher on science achievement tests than those taught by traditional classroom methods. In addition, teachers who work in school gardens had higher workplace morale and increased satisfaction with their jobs. Studies in Environmental Education Research and Journal of the American Dietetic Association show that children who are more familiar with growing their own food eat more fruits and vegetables and are more likely to continue healthy eating habits through adulthood. They are also more likely to accept people who are different from themselves.

These benefits and more have motivated schools across the five boroughs to develop and nurture their school garden programs. In partnership with Grow to Learn, the NYC Food Policy Center will be highlighting exemplary gardens in each borough over the next few months. Grow to Learn is a network of school gardens across the city that provides grant funding, materials, technical assistance, and education. Any public or charter school in NYC can register with Grow to Learn for support.

Here are 14 Grow to Learn school gardens in Brooklyn that are doing great work.


Garden at PS 46k The Magnet School of Media Arts and Communications Through Applied Learning

Type of school: Public elementary

Date founded: 2014

Founded by: Sarah Rubins Breen (Class of 2014)

Led by: Beth Conard

Maintained by: Miriam Collado

Garden mission: “We are here to steward our environment.”

What they grow: “Lettuce and other greens, perennials, and some annuals.”

Why they’re unique: “Our garden services our community through forging a connection between plants and food. We have a schoolwide nutrition curriculum, which we connect to the plants that we grow in the garden.”


Garden at PS 6 Norma Adams Clemons Academy

Type of school: Public elementary

Date founded: 2016

Founded by: Teachers

Led by: School garden committee

Maintained by: School staff (teachers, custodians)

Garden mission: “The garden encourages children to learn responsibility, hard work, self-confidence, and social skills, all while working together. Gardening teaches our students how to grow their own food and to eat healthy. By planting and growing their own food, it will reinforce a healthy and productive lifestyle.”

What they grow: “A variety of herbs, flowers, and vegetables (green beans, mint, thyme, tomatoes, Asian greens, lettuce, kale, etc.).”

Why they’re unique: “The project serves the students at PS 6 in Brooklyn. This is an inner-city school where many of the children lack access to green spaces. By planting, it provides a hands-on way of learning how food is produced as well as enhancing the school environment.”


IS 68 Community Vegetable Garden

Type of school: Public middle

Date founded: 2017

Founded by: IS 68 Eco-Team with the help of a Grow to Learn grant

Led by: Genaro Mancera (Special Education Teacher), Wendy Becker (Speech Language Pathologist), Aisha Demosthenes (Speech Language Pathologist), and Andree Sajous (Special Education Teacher)

Maintained by: Eco-Team students led by the Eco-Team leaders during the school year, and the IS 68 custodial team during the summer

Garden mission: “To provide students and staff with a hands-on tool for learning, engage students in discussions about environmental sustainability and food growth, inspire our school community to learn more about the origin of our food and what is healthy, and share our harvest with our school and neighborhood community.”

What they grow: “Lettuce, kale, chard, zucchini, eggplant, onion, different types of peppers, cucumber, squash, watermelon, basil, tomatoes, strawberries, and beets.”

Why they’re unique: “As a school, we have begun to take steps to educate our staff and students on environmental sustainability. Our overall goal is to become an eco-friendly school and have our students understand the negative and positive impacts humans have on their environment. Our vegetable garden is another step taken towards this goal. With our Eco-Team, we have developed two pollinating gardens on school grounds with an emphasis on attracting monarch butterflies during their migration period, using milkweed. In addition, we have incorporated air-pollinating plants within the majority of the classrooms and offices in the school building. Our entire staff has been involved in the implementation of these programs and initiatives. We are hoping to implement a school wide recycling and composting program that will help the school produce less overall waste in the near future.”


Langston Hughes’s Vegetable and Fruit Garden at PS 233 Langston Hughes

Type of school: Elementary

Date founded: March 2014

Founded by: Marion Howard (Science Cluster and Garden Coordinator)

Led by: Marion Howard (Science Cluster and Garden Coordinator)

Maintained by: Marion Howard (Science Cluster and Garden Coordinator), PS 233 students (K through fifth classes, student green team), and two community volunteers

Garden mission: “Our school garden’s mission is to use our school garden as an outdoor classroom to teach students sustainable practices on maintaining a garden that can be used as practice at home with their parents.   The garden is also used to teach students about the benefits and roles vegetables and fruits play in our environment; to teach students about the life cycles of various plants including their needs and the role of plant parts; to educate students on how to sow seeds and harvest crops as a way of practicing healthier eating habits at school and at home with parents (From Seed to Table”); to practice the “Seed to Table,” classes will harvest produce from the garden and celebrate by having class-by-class salad celebrations; to use our school’s outdoor garden for after school apprenticeship sessions to teach third and fifth graders sustainable practices and maintaining a vegetable and fruit garden; and to extend our school garden to our school community through conducting a farmers’ market.”

What they grow: Thyme, basil, green onions, lavender, rosemary, celery, cilantro, radishes, lettuce, swish chard, broccoli, cauliflower, collar greens, cabbage, various peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, okras and summer squash.

Why they are unique: “We consider our garden to be unique because it is the only school garden in the present surrounding school neighborhood. Students and their families are able to consume fresh local grown produce from the school garden.”




Old Stone House & MS 51 Partnership Gardens for History and Habitat at William Alexander Middle School

Type of school: Middle

Date founded: 2007

Founded by: Claudia Joseph (Old Stone House) and Jody Reiss (Science, MS 51)

Led by: Mitchell Porcelan (Special Education, MS 51), Steve Sandman (Science), Freddie Villandre (Science and Social Studies), Anna Pleskova (Science, Green Team)

Maintained by: Old Stone House and Science and Social Studies classes or after-school programs

Garden mission: “To educate about the usefulness of plants with a colonial model of a naturalized landscape. Both native and introduced plants for food, medicine, craft, wildlife support, and climate mitigation are layered in Food Forest design on the north side of the school.”

What they grow: “Mixed native shrubs and small trees, flowers, herbs, and food. Two eastern cedars act as windbreaks on the western edge, buffering the strong winds blowing from the ball courts. Black capped raspberries climb below them. On the fence is a pink concord grape vine. Two elderberry trees are also in the cluster at the west end of the gardens, as well as our native oak leaf hydrangea. We have three large compost bins where all of the garden waste from the school is deposited. There is a narrow strip for spring bulbs, lillies, amaranth, sunchoke, chrysanthemums, and other flowers and food. The garden has four sections. The next one, moving eastward, is the 911 Memorial Garden: rudbeckia, goldenrod, milkweed, asters, sedums, Montauk daisy, echinacea, sage, and other plants for pollinators. We are clearing more area to expand it. On the other side of the side entry stairs is a formal garden. There is a boxwood, spring bulbs, a few different hostas, azaleas, lady’s mantle, columbine, and annual flowers. The easternmost garden near 5th Avenue is a History & Habitat garden with mostly native plants: white pine, bottle brush buck-eye, blueberry, winterberry, juneberry, red raspberry, American raspberry, iris, feverfew and annuals.”

Why they’re unique: “These gardens model a variety of planting styles that could have existed in early American times. They operate on a high ecological level as all inputs are made on site and no chemicals are used. Better birds now visit the school yard and monarch butterflies feast on the milkweed. Numerous neighbors enjoyed the elderberries and the juneberries and raspberries ripen before summer break. It is a drought-resistant landscape with many different yields. The students are always amazed that some of the plants are medicinal, as they ponder life without pharmacies or stores. Herbs garner enthusiastic exclamations of recognition and worms are the reliable stars of any visit. Everyone likes the multitude of fall flowers that asters and rudbeckia provide and spring bulbs cheer us during one of the dreariest periods of the year. Students get to experience a variety of plants as they also visit our numerous gardens in Washington Park directly across 4th Street. The street has been designated a play street and cars are banned on schooldays. The Farm Garden which has many perennial and annual food crops is directly across from the school.”


Plantville at PS 321 William Penn School

Type of school: Public elementary

Date founded: 2009

Founded by: Patricia Intrator and Yana Wagg

Led by: Amy Crews, Kirsty Carroll, and Kayoko Baba

Maintained by: Amy Crews, Kirsty Carroll, and Kayoko Baba

Garden mission: “To grow together.”

What they grow: “Anything we can—vegetables, herbs, and we also include a ‘sensory’ garden with things for the kids to touch and smell.”

Why they’re unique: “This garden is small with a footprint of 14 feet by 30 feet (including the paths) and serves a huge school population of 1,500. Every year, we make an effort to give every child a chance to get into the garden and plant, harvest, or maintain the garden. The science teachers for K through first and third through fifth incorporate the garden into their curriculum and the garden committee does a special week for the second grade classes (who do not have a stand-alone science curriculum) to work in the garden. This year has been an unusual year because, due to construction, our garden is slated to be disassembled and stored for a year and we are using a very small temporary garden on the other side of the playground so our garden programming has been limited. We are currently in the process of preparing for our Spring Harvest Day and harvesting from our temporary garden with a Kindergarten class.

School Name:


PS 132 Learning Garden at PS 132 The Conselyea School

Type of school: Public elementary

Date founded: 2016
Founded by: The Green Team of PS 132 (made up of parents and teachers)

Led by: Jennifer Palmer (parent) and Heather de Koning (teacher)

Maintained by: The Green Team and the students

Garden mission: “To get children closer to nature and to foster an appreciation for living things.”

What they grow: “A wide variety of pollinator plants designed to entice butterflies while beautifying our schoolyard with fragrant flowers and herbs.”
Why they’re unique: “With busy Metropolitan Avenue running alongside PS 132, our school community searched for creative ways to reduce our children’s exposure to pollutants while giving them a fresh, hands-on opportunity to learn about our ecosystem. Pollution mitigation and crop growing seemed counter-intuitive, but a pollinator garden was a perfect fit.


PS 29 Children’s Garden

Type of school: Public elementary

Date founded: 2007

Founded by: The Wellness Committee (a group of people compiled of some of the school’s teachers, parents, custodial staff, chefs, and administration)

Maintained by: Tina Aprea-Reres and her students during the school year and volunteer families during the summer

Garden mission: “Our garden serves as an outdoor classroom and is instrumental in teaching about the life cycle of plants, nutrition, and the relationship between plants, animals and people. Students learn the benefits of growing their own food. They always take pride in what they have grown and are eager to sample and share vegetables with their school community. The science curriculum comes alive in the garden and it has given a purpose to our learning. Students learn about insects and particularly the relationship between pollinators and the food we grow.”

What they grow: “Vegetables including: tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, Swiss chard, kale, carrots, broccoli, garlic, beans, corn, squash, fava beans, peas, eggplant, collard greens, chives. Herbs: basil, parsley, rosemary, oregano, tarragon, callaloo, lemon balm. We also have many perennials for our dear pollinators. These include: common milkweed, New England aster, goldenrod, evening primrose, black eyed Susan, yarrow, bee balm, salvia, echinacea, joe pie weed.  We also have strawberries and an apple tree.”

Why they’re unique: “Our second grade students work in the garden throughout the entire school year. They witness the lifecycle of many plants from planting seeds to seed harvesting and storing. Some of what we harvest is served in the cafeteria. Several grades visit and work in the garden during specific units. Additionally, since our garden is in the schoolyard, some students visit the garden during lunch and help with daily tasks such as watering, weeding, turning soil, and running scavenger hunts for younger children. Finally, our garden is cared for by different families in our community during the summer and it is ready for our students in September.”


Vegetable Garden at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School

Type of school: Charter middle and high

Date founded: 2012

Founded by: Amy Crews

Led by: Amy Crews

Maintained by: Amy Crews and a small group of student and family volunteers

Garden mission: “To get fresh vegetables into our kids and inspire them to grow them with us!”

What they grow: “Vegetables – tomatoes, lettuce, ground cherries, cucumbers, callaloo, gourds, squash, kale, tomatillos (until they ate the garden), herbs, marigolds.”

Why they’re unique: “This garden is small but hopefully mighty. It’s positioned next to the door where the middle school dismisses so that every day the kids see the vegetables growing. We hope to tempt them to come in and taste the vegetables and be inspired to try something new and maybe try growing at home. This year, one of the teachers started a garden club and the kids are working in the garden once a week. Also, the cafeteria manager has a cooking club and they come in to harvest and make food with herbs and vegetables from the garden. We have done a couple of Harvest Days—I have prepared samples for the kids to taste using the garden produce, which we serve in the cafeteria. The garden was started with a Grow to Learn grant and we keep the garden growing with annual plant and seed sales.”


971 Garden at PS 971 School of Math, Science and Healthy Living

Type of school: Public elementary

Date founded: 2013

Founded by: Kerri Durante and GREEN Team

Led by: Kerri Durante

Maintained by: Students of PS 971

Garden mission: “The mission of our garden committee is to grow responsible environmentally-driven education through gardening activities and curriculum. The science curriculum is built around the garden with a different garden focus on each grade level. Our students will contribute to building, maintaining, and harvesting!”

What they grow: “We are growing edibles and pollinators, such as herbs, vegetables, beans and flowers.”

Why they’re unique: “Our garden is unique because we have no access to water and maintain the garden using Sub Irrigated Planting Systems (SIPS). The students use recycled materials to plant and expand the garden. There is little to no involvement by adults in maintaining the garden, and the student GREEN Team makes most of the gardening decisions.”

Photo credit: Old Stone House & MS 51 Partnership Gardens for History and Habitat at William Alexander Middle School

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