Gardens for the City | September 14, 2021
Helping Revive an Urban Agriculture Curriculum in the South Bronx
Building school gardens has been some of our most important work throughout the pandemic. They allow students and teachers to distance, engage with nature, and simply get a breath of fresh air.
This past June, our Gardens for the City (GFTC) team returned to our partner school P.S. 811X, the Academy for Career and Living Skills to revitalize their sprawling campus grounds that support their school-wide horticultural program in Hunts Point.
P.S 811X serves students from ages 13-21 who have a wide spectrum of physical and cognitive disabilities. The school focuses on creating immersive learning experiences designed to empower their students and highlight their abilities.
For over ten years, our GFTC program assisted community partners like P.S. 811X to transform underused public venues into high-quality, accessible green spaces. We began working with P.S. 811X in 2019, when we completed the school’s first phase of the garden revamp that included cleaning up the space and building raised beds.
Last year, the school reached out to us again to replace dilapidated beds and expand their garden education space. Thanks to funding from the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, we were able to revisit the school earlier this summer to install ten new raised beds in addition to two of the school’s first ADA-accessible garden beds that allow students in wheelchairs to better participate in garden activities. We also built a shade structure with a functioning rainwater harvesting system, added picnic tables, and redesigned an ornamental planting area to attract beneficial pollinators.
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Thanks to our ongoing partnership, the school has been able to integrate urban agriculture and horticulture education into their curriculum. “Because our school is in an urban environment, we want students to know that you don’t have to live in the country to experience nature and to grow food,” explains administrative assistant Paula Lucas. “You can do it right there in the South Bronx.”
With this updated green space, students water, plant, compost, weed, and harvest their own produce. Students also use the fruits and vegetables they grow in culinary arts classes and sell it locally through their Farm Stand Program in partnership with Slow Food NYC and GrowNYC.
“Without NYRP, the school wouldn’t have the success that we have today,” Lucas concludes. “Students having their hands in the soil, watering their beds, and observing butterflies helps them learn.”
All photos by Ben Hider.