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 4 Grow to Learn school gardens in Staten Island that are doing great work.
PS 10 Community Garden at Fort Hill Collaborative Elementary School (PS 10)
Type of school: Public elementary
Date founded: 2017
Founded by: Solar One (Green Design Lab), Tiffany Igneri, and Anita Otero
Led by: Tiffany Igneri and Anita Otero
Maintained by: PS 10 Solar One After School and NIA After School
Garden mission: “Our mission is to have our students, parents, and staff create a community of collective minds that will grow and flourish our garden. Being that we are a math and science school, many of our lessons can tie into our community garden. This year especially we implemented Small Bites Curriculum and this is a great way to be hands-on with our students.”
What they grow: Lettuce, baby greens, arugula, kale, cilantro, mint, basil, tomatoes, nasturtium, geraniums, and exotic plants.
Why they’re unique: “Our program is unique because we started from nothing. This was a vision I [Tiffany Igneri] had for PS 10 and always wanted to have a green thumb. PS 10 is a newly founded neighborhood school that is exceptionally passionate in hands-on activities. We felt that a garden outside would really involve our students as well as our families. It is a great opportunity to bring everyone together and learn together in our garden. We have learned so many things about how to tend our garden, harvesting, and what plants to grow during what times of the year. I have also contacted a non-profit organization (Sundog Theater) and was able to fund together with Solar One a mural design of two elephants (our mascot) spraying our plants with water. We hope to continue these partnerships in the near future and we can’t wait to watch our garden grow!”
Aiello’s PS/IS 48 School Community Garden at William G. Wilcox (PS/IS 48)
Type of school: Pre-K through 8th grade
Date founded: 2015
Founded by: Esther Aliotta
Led by: Esther Aliotta
Maintained by: Students and staff of PS/IS 48, PS 373 Annex, and NYCID Afterschool and Summer Programs
Garden mission: “The purpose of the garden is to provide a healthy outdoor, child-friendly environment to learn about and experience garden life. We grow confidence, pride, respect, and smiles, lots and lots of smiles!”
What they grow: Corn, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, zucchini, peppers, radishes, cabbage, perennial flowers, and herbs such as mint, chocolate mint, parsley, basil, lavender, lemon balm, sage, and more.
Why they’re unique: “Our garden is very hands-on. We provide hand shovels and a digging box for those who love to, well…dig! We have water barrels and watering cans that children can easily access to water their favorite plant. The children help with weeding, planting, maintaining, and harvesting…They do it all! When it’s harvest time, we share with our school community and share with our local food pantry. The garden boxes use a sub-irrigation system (SIP) which is essential in maintaining the garden, especially during the summer months. Many students have created their own individual SIP containers to get a full understanding of how they operate. We also featured a SIP demonstration during a recent STEAM Showcase this past spring. It was a hit with both parents and children alike. This past year, we expanded our garden experience by installing a solar powered greenhouse, created by our science teacher, Theresa Manzo. We are excited about this latest addition and look forward to the new possibilities it will afford us this coming school year.”
Hungerford Garden at The Richard Hungerford School at Jerome Parker Campus (P721)
Type of school: Special needs junior high and high
Date founded: 2016
Founded by: Aurora Gurgone and Denise Trezza
Led by: Aurora Gurgone and Denise Trezza
Maintained by: Staff and students
Garden mission: “To enable all students to participate and learn no matter what their ability is.”
What they grow: Various fruits (figs and berries), vegetables (lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and herbs), flowers, and hummingbird bushes.
Why they’re unique: “We have adapted our garden to meet the various needs of our students so all can participate. Our students need various accommodations based on their ability to participate, such as raised vegetable beds and adaptive tools. Our garden is also unique in that we are teaching students life skills and pre-vocational training. We are also housed in a campus with two general education high schools that have been collaborating with us.”
P373R Garden at P373R at PS 58
Type of school: “On grounds of elementary school, but the caretakers are District 75.”
Date founded: 2014
Founded by: Science teacher
Led by: Science teacher and students
Maintained by: Science teacher, paras, and students
Garden mission: “Our mission is to have our District 75 students experience the garden life. We start with germination to planting to tasting. Some of the students have never tried some of the crops that grow. After tasting they loved what they tasted.”
What they grow: Tomatoes, lettuce, string beans, pumpkins, flowers, and more.
Why they’re unique: “We are a special school (District 75) with autistic and intellectually deficient students with many challenges: behaviors, learning styles, sensory issues for textures, tasting of different foods, and more.”