BY AMANDA MOSES
The Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom (UGC) will be hosting a wide array of recycling and sustainability lessons for students this fall semester. Garden Educator, Jacqui Roytman has coordinated an eco-friendly curriculum for Frederick Douglass Academy VIII, Intermediate Gateway IS 364, the Spring Creek After School Program and Spring Creek Teen Central.
FDA VIII will start their school year learning about reducing, reusing, recycling, and repurposing materials, particularly plastic. Roytman plans on showing the students how to create a small tool storage area using plastic bottles, while also creating a rain water collector. Roytman will place a plastic roof on top of the storage area, which will then funnel water down into the water bottles, creating a rainwater collector. By participating in the project, the students learn about the water cycle and how to create a sustainable garden. Roytman hopes that students learn how to conserve water through collecting rain water to feed the plants in the garden. The middle schoolers will collect Arizona Ice Tea bottles found in school and at home, and then bring them to the garden class where they will be assembled as part of the rainwater collector.
Gateway Intermediate School (IS 364) will be learning about com-posting. Last year, the SCRF UGC received a mini-grant for a compost bin from Grow to Learn, which is a citywide initiative that helps pro-mote the creation of sustainable gardens in NYC public schools. “Sustainable agriculture is using eco-friendly techniques around the garden that help protect the environment,” Roytman said. The soil in the UGC is not chemically treated, so Roytman uses compost to help fertilize the soil. Composting is the process of taking green waste (food, leaves, and other organic materials) and waiting for it to break down into nutrient rich humus. The students will help build the cedar wood composter, which comes with three bins including a sifter, soil thermometer, a compost crank twister, and chicken wire. The middle schoolers will help dispose of green waste, which are unused or spoiled vegetation to create compost that will help break down organic materials for the plants to absorb, developing a natural alternative to chemical fertilizer.
Students in the Spring Creek After School Program will parti-cipate in both projects, learning from the middle school students how each activity functions. Spring Creek Teen Central will be also learning about repurposing mate-rials in the garden. Before the winter’s frost, the teens will harvest cucumbers, which they will then preserve by pickling them. They will also collect rose petals, lavender, basil, flowers, and herbs to create soap, lotion, and rose water. This new program will be called Baskets to Pallets, an activity that involves the teens harvesting herbs grown in the UGC and creating essential oils, perfumes, lotions, soaps, and other natural products. This initiative will culminate in December with a grand crafts fair, featuring a wide variety of art-based creations.
All of these activities will teach students about the environment, water conservation, and recycling while also connecting them to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math curriculum (using chart-ing, design concepts, and promoting healthy eating).
Photo courtesy of Jacqui Roytman