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Category: Education

Summer Days in Greenpoint

Summer Days in Greenpoint

This summer, the Hort’s education team developed and led the Young Naturalists Program at McGolrick Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The program was free and open to the public throughout July and August. Students, mostly two to twelve years old, joined our educators for nature-themed classes. Additionally, as an ongoing project, students beautified a park corner – opposite PS 110 – where they and their parents cleared leaf litter, pulled weeds, fertilized the soil, added compost, and planted native perennials to attract pollinators to the park.

Each session encouraged the Naturalists to explore their park with curiosity and a keen eye. Tuesday’s Critter Club brought up-close inspections of ladybugs, worms, crickets, and ants. Wednesday’s Art in the Park displayed students’ inner Van Gogh through print making, water colors, collages, and rubbings. On Thursday’s, everyone grabbed binoculars for a special Park Exploration. Botany and Story Time on Friday’s were a huge hit as students explored the inner workings of plants. The Saturday Family Fun gave young naturalists the opportunity to plant and grow something at home!

By the end of the summer, the Naturalists located and identified red-wing blackbirds, monarch butterflies, sycamore tussock moth caterpillars, and countless other critters and animals who call McGolrick Park home. Plus, as a special treat, on the last day of the program students had the special opportunity to meet Crooks the Chicken!

The Young Naturalists Program is part of The Hort’s McGolrick Park restoration which includes improvements to the dog run, reseeding the lawn, and restoring garden beds. This project is in collaboration with the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn and the McGolrick Park Neighborhood Alliance, and funded by the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF). The GCEF is a joint program of the Office of the New York State Attorney General and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The Hort’s High School Internship Program

The Hort’s High School Internship Program

Naval Cemetery Landscape

Over spring break, the Horticultural Society of New York led a 30 hour training and internship program for a group of 40 Brooklyn high school students focusing on urban gardening, landscape design, and green infrastructure. The experience was designed to engage students with their neighborhood’s green landscape by actively involving them in the maintenance and beautification of the Brooklyn Greenway and Naval Cemetery Landscape. The support of council members Carlos Menchaca and Antonio Reynoso was integral to the success of the program.

Making Seed Bombs

I was surprised at “actually wanting to dig in dirt and actually liking it”

The most useful thing “I learn[ed] was the difference between climate change and weather”

Making fresh-squeezed lemonade with mulberries harvested at the site

Now that the Naval Cemetery Landscape (opened Fall 2016) is open to the public, The Hort utilized the transformed space as a project site for students. With the program designed to split its time between traditional classroom instruction and fieldwork, the landscape served as an ideal work area – featuring native plants, butterfly-attracting cultivars, and a peaceful green space. The Hort’s education staff, along with guest speakers from the fields of environmental science, urban planning, and professional landscaping, led workshops on horticulture, soil science, green infrastructure, climate change, and the benefits of native plants. Fieldwork at the Naval Cemetery involved soil tests, tree surveys, architectural review, and insect study. Students also received job readiness training including resume writing, interviewing and job search skills.

“I’m surprised that green infrastructure is everywhere I go! Even on the roof of Barclay’s Center!”

“Before this program I never planted anything ever and I didn’t think plants were important”

Interns learned landscape maintenance techniques and best practices by working to beautify the Brooklyn Greenway. They identified and pulled weeds, improved soil conditions with organic amendments, and planted native, butterfly-friendly plants. The group also restored five street tree beds along the entrance to the Naval Cemetery by removing stumps and weeds, selecting and planting native perennial seedlings to attract pollinators, and adding layers of compost and mulch.

Tree Stump Removal

“Planting is actually pretty fun”

“One thing that surprised me was [how many] types of greenspaces there are”

“I learned how to better the environment around me”

The internship culminated with a certificate ceremony and celebration on Thursday, June 8th. To see more photos, visit our flickr album.

Family Fun Day at Riverbank State Park

Family Fun Day at Riverbank State Park

On Saturday June 3rd, with the support of Council Member Mark Levine (Manhattan District 7), the Hort’s NYdigs program hosted a family fun day at Riverbank State Park featuring three of our favorite things: planting, exploring, and eating!

Council Member Mark Levine joined in the fun!

Set-up in the park’s busy courtyard, children (and parents too!) quickly found their way to the plant table – attracted by flats of Marigolds, Tomatoes, Basil, Dill, Parsley, and Carnations. They decorated their own pot, scooped rich soil to prepare the transplant, and chose which seedling to care for at home. At the end of the afternoon, over 200 plants found their way to new, happy gardeners.

With plants in hand, many families joined a nature exploration led by a Hort educator. Each explorer spent time searching for birds with binoculars, discussing the mighty Hudson River, and learning a new fact or two. Did you know there have been whale sightings in the Hudson?

Chef Noah Sheetz making his beet hummus

Finally, Chef Noah Sheetz prepared three delicious, all-natural recipes for everyone totaste. A beautiful, purple beet hummus served with crackers and veggies prepared the palate; which gave way to a satisfying vegetable and root salad; and finished with a chocolaty, crunchy quinoa energy bite! The recipes are below if you would like to recreate the delectable experience.

 

Recipes by Chef Noah Sheetz

 

PS 83X Learning Garden Revitalization

PS 83X Learning Garden Revitalization

During an early April week, the Hort’s GreenTeam revitalized the overgrown garden near the entrance of PS 83X in the Bronx. The project, made possible by Council Member James Vacca, transformed the outdoor space from a line of scruffy evergreens to an outdoor classroom and garden, fully furnished with sixteen tree stump seats!

With school empty during the summer,  elements of the design and plant list were specially curated to survive New York’s hottest and driest months with little care. Our horticulturists chose to highlight drought resistant plants like Coral Bells, Shadbush, Ajuga, and Red Twig Dogwood.

The learning garden, located next to the school’s entrance, was also rejuvenated. The six raised garden beds received much needed repairs, a fresh supply of soil and compost, and a surrounding layer of mulch. Each of the six 2nd grade classes at PS83X will have their own bed to sow seeds, learn about plants, and grow vegetables throughout the school year.

Raised beds before & after

The partnership also brings Hort educators to PS 83X to teach over 200 second graders how to identify and plant vegetables, herbs, and flowers – emphasizing the importance of plant science. Everyone is excited for a beautiful new outdoor learning space where they can release ladybugs, learn about garden pests, and offer a fun, hands on look at our natural world. Before the school year is out, every 2nd grade student will transplant seedlings they started and nurtured in their classroom.

Check out the Flickr album below to see great photos from the project!

PS 83X Revitalization

 

 

 

Introducing NYdigs: Plant-based Nutrition & Wellness Education

Introducing NYdigs: Plant-based Nutrition & Wellness Education

In 2017, the Horticultural Society of New York will launch NYdigs, a community outreach program that will connect New Yorkers to plant-based nutrition and wellness education. Offering a variety of free and affordable gardening courses, special events, hands-on workshops, and informative conferences, NYdigs will educate New Yorkers about how gardens, landscapes, and green infrastructure can positively affect their communities, families, and lives.

NYdigs will host programs, conferences, and special events throughout the city. From the art of making soap, to the benefits of cooking with fresh vegetables, to our Urban Agriculture Conference, programs and events will be rooted in the Hort’s mission: cultivating the vital connection between people and plants.

To stay up-to-date on all things NYdigs, sign up for our mailing list or visit our NYdigs webpage: thehort.org/nydigs

NYdigs is proudly sponsored by Burpee Seeds and Plants.

The Importance of Natural Science Education

The Importance of Natural Science Education

IMG_0364
The Hort provides the Apple Seed program to underserved public schools, in the classroom and as part of after-school programs. Apple Seed is an inquiry–based program that emphasizes raising the level of critical thinking among students and sharpening their powers of observation. Apple Seed includes hand-on activities that integrate science learning with reading, mathematics, writing, cultural history, geography, and artistic expression. The Apple Seed curriculum is based on the National Science Education Standards.

At the Hort we love to introduce New York City public school children to the great outdoors — even in a gray cityscape. It’s no secret that access to urban green spaces, an emphasis on nutrition education, and connecting students to nature prepares young people for a more successful future. The curriculum we teach in schools offers further insight into the inspirational power of nature.

5Every semester our in-school (and in-garden!) educators work tirelessly to engage students with each lesson.  We don’t want the learning and experience to stop in the classroom or at the school. Lessons are designed to be taken home and shared with parents and siblings to reinforce the experience and empower others. For instance, when our 4th and 5th graders participate in a hands-on activity that teaches them to identify different types of herbs and build a ‘seasoning pack’ with a recipe to use at home.

In 2016, Hort educators measured the impact of our school lessons through process-based questions designed to show growth. Take a look at some of the highlights:

 

Brooklyn high school, 9 – 12th grade students

Before Apple Seed lessonsIMG_0136

  • None of the high school students were able to recognize sage, rosemary, and thyme, while 20% knew cilantro
  • None of the students had heard about a career in landscape design

After Apple Seed Lessons

  • 100% of students could name sage, rosemary, thyme and cilantro
  • Students participated in a design lesson with a landscape architect

Third grade students at an elementary school near Central Park

Before Apple Seed Lessons

  • Of Eighty students, less than ten previously held a lady bug
  • Only 5% have carved or cut open a pumpkin
  • Less than fifteen students had ever planted in school or at home

After Apple Seed Lessons

  • Every student participated in (and loved!) a lady bug inspection and release
  • Third graders ran around their school garden hunting in a pumpkin patch, received a pumpkin stew recipe card, and a pumpkin to take home
  • Each student planted a plant and helped it grow!

watering on 210 roofThird Grade Students at an elementary school in Harlem

Before Apple Seed Lessons

  • 60% of students previously tasted tea, while none had ever made their own
  • None had ever used rosemary, sage, or thyme to season their food

After Apple Seed Lessons

  • Every student made their own tea AND they all tasted it.
  • 55% of students used a mix of rosemary, sage, and thyme to season their families food at Thanksgiving.

Many of these findings are consistent with the schools we serve – reinforcing the importance of natural science and nutrition education in our city’s schools.

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The Hort and Emma Lazarus High School Bring the ‘Poet’s Garden’ to Life

The Hort and Emma Lazarus High School Bring the ‘Poet’s Garden’ to Life

ELHS

In May, The Horticultural Society of New York joined forces with students at Emma Lazarus High School (ELHS) to install a beautiful garden and inspirational learning area. ELHS is dedicated to assisting English language learners thrive in and out of the class room. With the diverse student population in mind – hailing from Ecuador, Haiti, and China, to name a few – ELHS and The Hort brought the universal language of gardening to every young adult.

The ‘Poet’s Garden’, named by students to honor poet (and school) Emma Lazarus*, is located in the Lower East Side on the corner of Hester and Eldridge street. As we see so often in the city, the scrap of land housed little more than a few trees and a tuft of grass. After a combined total of 150 volunteer hours the site is a shadow of its former self. Following a design they helped create, students conditioned soil, created two ovular beds, planted two more trees, laid a stone walkway, and tended to any stray weeds.

The new plants and trees not only add to the immediate beauty but also lead to long-term garden viability – a strong groundwork to grow forward. The plant list included: Hostas, Bee Balm, Hellebores, Andromeda bushes, and lavender. The trees, a Coral Bark Japanese Maple and a Dwarf Lace Leaf Japanese Maple, will add plenty of shade to this unique and special area.

Over the next month, The Hort will continue to work with the students to maintain the space. Through regular maintenance, garden education, and time spent enjoying and meditating in the outdoors, the hope is to instill a sense of pride and ownership in the garden’s ultimate stewards: the students.

*Emma Lazarus is a famous American poet whose most recognized work, The New Colossus, can be found inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty. The stanza, “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” is often considered one of the most powerful and recognizable pieces of American writing.