Growing in the Garden - Curricula

Growing in the Garden:
A Curriculum for Practicing Horticulture with the Mentally Ill

In January 2008 The Bridge, The Horticultural Society of New York, and the United Way of New York City's Hunger Prevention & Nutrition Assistance Program, joined together for an innovative project — the creation of a food-producing farm in the backyard of a Bridge residence serving mentally ill homeless adults in the Bronx. The aim of the project was to enhance the self-esteem and physical well-being of residents by engaging them in growing, and consuming highly nutritious, locally grown food, and to teach about good nutrition and healthy eating. During the twelve months it took to plan, design, build, plant, maintain and harvest the farm, the Crew documented each step along the way. The result is this curriculum guide — a blueprint for any organization to learn from and build on as they develop their own farms and farming activities.

Download this guide (PDF - 1.5MB)

Growing in the Garden:
A Curriculum for Practicing Horticulture with At-Risk Youth

We regularly receive inquiries for information about gardening with at-risk youth: those who have been in trouble with the law, dropped out of school, and are disconnected from their communities, their families, and themselves. In this guide, emphasis put is equally outon developing students' practical skills through hands-on activities and improving their abilities to understand abstract concepts, use scientific reasoning, and perform applied mathematical calculations.

This curriculum is designed to be used over the course of the year, beginning in the winter months with chapters and exercises that can be applied indoors, then outdoors as the months progess. This curriculum offers students an introduction to the basic skills of horticulture, but more importantly, offers them the benefits of horticultural therapy as they learn the rhythm of the seasons and the natural world and connect more deeply with their environment. Horticulture is observation. The purpose of This curriculum guide is to help the student to learn to observe: to observe in the moment and live in the moment. This intense observation causes the gardener to become calm; blood pressure to drop; anxiety to gradually subside.

The student of horticulture is acaretaker of living creatures. It is a very powerful experience for a someone who may have been under the care of a foster parent or home, in a rehabilitation program, or a recipient of assistance for much or all of their lives to now take on the role of caretaker. They will suddenly find themselves in the position of distributing food to a community from the farm that they have cared for. Conscience, responsibility, caretaking: they grow as the garden does.

Download this guide (PDF - 6.5MB)

Growing in the Garden:
A Curriculum for Practicing Horticulture with Inner City Children

This curriculum outlines the development of an urban, native plant garden in West Harlem. The creation of the garden and the activities and suggestions that follow are based on our work in the field. We emphasize experiential learning: as students plant seeds and dig in the garden, they become more aware of the living world around them. We also seek to spark students' creativity through artistic extensions and activities that call on their imaginations to design their garden.

In October of 2008, The Horticultural Society of New York began work with the National Parks Service by becoming a local partner in its nationwide First Bloom program. This involved developing the former site of Hamilton Grange as a native plant community garden with the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem (BGCH) and with elementary students from PS 153. Both BGCH and PS 153 are in located in New York City's Community Board 9, where more than 90% of the families live below the poverty level. This collaboration between HSNY, NPS and the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem was cited by the National Parks Service in March 2010 as the "Best First Bloom Program" in the country.

Using our experience with the First Bloom project as our template, we developed this curriculum for inner-city children, with the following goals in mind:

•  Introduce city children to the natural world around them through hands-on activities
in the garden.
•  Educate students in the history of their neighborhood through interaction with
community members.
•  Build students' observation skills through visits to and a thorough analysis
of the garden site.
•  Develop students' ability to work cooperatively to achieve a common goal.
•  Provide opportunities for students' creativity, including drawing and painting.

This curriculum will take you through some of the many stages of garden creation, beginning with discussion of seeds and the needs of plants and moving through discussions of photosynthesis, an introduction to native plants, garden design, and planting the garden.

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Growing in the Garden:
A Curriculum for Practicing Horticulture with Incarcerated Individuals

Unlike specific programs in hospitals, drug abuse centers, psychiatric wards, and hospices, prison populations may encompass a whole range of personal disorders, physical ailments and anti-social behavior. Inmates may be incarcerated for crimes they committed, but imprisonment does not address the underlying mental disorders that may have lead to criminal behavior in the first place. With the ground wide open, prison horticulture aims for a common denominator when exploring the potential of each individual and their struggle for change, growth and self-realization. The garden provides an important medium and metaphor for this dynamic process; for what takes place in the garden — work, effort, planning, skill, and an understanding of the various plant, animal and human interactions — is rewarded with creation, beauty and food.

For prisoners, many of whom have suffered frequent failures in the job place, low literacy and the frustrations of being marginalized in society, horticulture is a process that allows them to control their environment through shared responsibilities — an unspoken contract between person and plant.

The garden provides a direct hands-on method for individuals to take responsibility for themselves as a natural outgrowth of taking responsibility for a garden. The more one plays a part in their creation and maintenance, the better they are able to apply these concepts to changing their life. In the process, inmates develop important job skills, including construction, gardening and landscape maintenance, interior design, floral arrangement and general management abilities that can help them find employment when they re-enter their communities.

Download this guide (PDF - 8.5MB)