by Abbe Futterman
Spring has sprung at The Earth School thanks to unusually warm weather and generous support from Slow Food NYC's Urban Harvest Program. With five racks of grow lights, the children have started warm weather crops such as heritage tomatoes, herbs, lettuce, and cucumbers. Outdoors, the apples, blueberries, and strawberries are in full bloom. The rhubarb and asparagus have sprouted. The figs have immature fruit and the grapes are budding. The raspberries and hardy kiwi vines look healthy, however, these young plants have still never produced fruit. The children are harvesting "leftover" fall kale and collard greens for their calcium-rich food study with Tim Lammers, the school's fulltime cooking teacher. This year's greens are especially sweet and juicy after wintering over.
Our Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 5 students have regular opportunities to work in the Urban Harvest garden just outside of our science classroom. Some of our ongoing garden experiences include schoolwide composting, participation in the Garden to Cafe program, and our semi-annual Farmers' Market. In their weekly cooking classes, students learn about nutrition while preparing and enjoying healthy foods.
The Slow Food NYC sponsorship of our garden allows us to continuously develop our programming. For example, this year, a group of fourth and fifth graders did soil testing during the winter months. When the results were in, they researched organic soil amendments such as alfalfa pellets, fish powder, and greensand that were then purchased and applied. We also bought soil blockers that the students used to press growing medium into small cubes, a "homemade" version of jiffy pots, for starting seeds indoors. To ensure the pollination of our crops, we purchased mason bees, an indigenous, non-stinging species, and a nesting box. The students then studied bees and their ecological importance.
The Slow Food mission is a perfect fit with the Earth School's pedagogical philosophy of active, hands-on learning and its commitment to ecological sustainability. The school is very grateful to the Slow Food NYC community for this ongoing support.
Abbe Futtermaan is a teacher at The Earth School in Manhattan's Lower East Side. She runs the food education program that is supported by Slow Food NYC.