Blossoming flowers, lush greenery, multi-colored birds fluttering in a birdbath, and the sound of laughter, these are just a few sights and sounds to behold at the Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom (UGC).
Although local schools are closed for the summer break, there are still children helping the garden keep its magical glow. Summer programs, such as Be’er Hagolah Institute’s day camp, often visit the UGC to learn about plants, amending the soil, and so much more from Garden Educator, Jacqui Roytman.
Before getting their hands dirty, Roytman believes the students should understand what plants, vegetables and flowers are growing in the UGC, and how to take care of them. She asked the students to sit at the center of the garden, on top of a large blue mat and under the cool shade of a gazebo, so that she could explain the difference between fruits and vegetables.
“This is a cherry tomato, is it a fruit or a vegetable,” Roytman inquired. The group of seven to nine-year-olds excitedly raised their hands and shouted, “Fruit!” Happy with their answer, Roytman proceeded to test their knowledge by displaying pictures of various plants. “What about basil, doesn’t that look like mint? Does it taste the same? Can you use it as an ingredient for the same types of food,” she asked.
Eight-year-old Michael Kamar immediately knew the answers to Roytman’s questions, and stated, “Mint is sweet, and basil tastes good on pizza!” The other children nodded in agreement, “And you have tomatoes in pizza,” Kamar added joyfully.
Seeing the students’ enthusiasm, Roytman handed out magnifying glasses and asked them to observe the bugs that live in the UGC. She explained to the class that worms, beetles and other insects are a part of the garden’s ecosystem, some hinder plant growth and others help them flourish. As the children analyzed the life forms within the UGC, Roytman gave a few students a chance to water the plants. “It’s so hot out, so the plants are really thirsty,” she said filling up watering cans for the group.
Some of the students noticed just how ripe and delicious the tomato plants were, so they asked Roytman if they could eat it. “Of course, and you don’t have to worry about pesticides because everything in the UGC is organic,” she said harvesting the fruit with the assistance of her Summer Youth Employment Program staff (SYEP).
Once the class ended, the SYEP workers pointed a hose high above the garden’s fence, and let the water rain down onto Spring Creek Towers’ lawn. “Since it’s really hot out, if you want to get wet, just walk under the water,” Roytman said. Jumping up and down under the makeshift sprinkler, Noah Nektalov, 7, said his visit to the garden was amazing. “I loved how sweet the cherry tomatoes were, but my favorite part of today was getting wet.” Photos: Malick Mercier