A fruitful summer

At the entrance of The New School for Leadership and the Arts, MS 244 there is a strip of land overflowing with flowers, bushes and produce. 

There is a large, green pumpkin the size of a basketball, fuchsia flowers, tiny budding plants and evergreen bushes. 

The garden, a green oasis surrounded by concrete, came about due to the efforts of about 15 students, who sacrificed part of their summer to weed, dig and plant. 

“It makes the community come together and you learn who your neighbors are,” seventh grade Tyler Ramirez said on a recent day. 

After they had improved the front of the school, students moved to the back, where there is a rocky patch of grass between two buildings. Although the space was cleared three years ago, it proved difficult to cultivate. Only tomatoes survived last year. 

That’s where the New York Botanical Garden, New York Cares, a community service organization, and Saint Barnabas Hospital’s Teen Health Center came in. Over the summer, the organizations worked with students to build a greenhouse, donated by NYBG, and clear space around the school. 

Teachers have already used the summer experience to teach students about the importance of urban green spaces and community building. Upcoming lessons will focus on healthy eating, planting and — if they grow enough vegetables to sell at a market — finance. 

Social studies teacher Michelle Terrell said she plans to use the garden to show students, “What people had to do in order for societies to develop.”

Although it’s getting a little late to start planting, the timing has given students and teachers time to learn what will flourish in the rocky soil, how to use a greenhouse and how to cultivate plants. 

Principal Dolores Peterson said she hopes to formalize the summer planting program so the school’s gardens do not fall into disrepair. 

“The piece that was missing was the maintenance during the summer,” she said. 

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