July 2016

GreenFutures – Green Schools Blog

The EM Stanton Elementary School Garden (15th and Christian St)  

The EM Stanton Elementary School’s gardening club created a green spot among the usual asphalt and cement that sprawls through many urban areas like Philadelphia. Currently growing in this South Philadelphia community garden is an extensive array of colorful vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers including Roma tomatoes, yellow squash, Swiss chard, mini watermelons, basil, banana peppers, carrots, kale, zinnias, sunflowers, and more.  The garden is shared by several community groups with the school’s section demarcated by a painted wooden sign that says, “EM Stanton Elementary 4-6 Grade Project.”

During the summer, the garden is maintained and cared for by a group of environmentally passionate volunteers and members of the “Eat Right Now” (ERN) organization. The EM Stanton School’s garden club visits frequently and helps tend to the garden by harvesting the vegetables and fruit. Nutrition educators from ERN teach the students about produce preparation and harvesting.  Afterwards, students usually get to taste and even take home their work! During the most recent tasting, the students had permission to use a neighborhood community group, Bainbridge House’s, kitchen and cooked up a meal of quiche made with chopped Swiss chard and sautéed Swiss chard as a side.  The kids liked it!

Neighborhood children also get to visit the garden and sometimes teachers and parents tag along as well.  One of the school’s teachers, Ms. Joan Williams, runs the garden and the club.  She is also a science teacher at EM Stanton Elementary School.  The students at EM Stanton have a great teacher who cares about their health and education.  I asked Ms. Williams what the garden club does with the excess produce that the club doesn’t eat, but harvests.  She said that some of the vegetables are donated to a food kitchen called “Ready, Willing, and Able.” The club also sometimes serves vegetables at school such as a lettuce for salad at lunch, or a pesto with fresh basil.

GreenFutures, the District’s sustainability plan will highlight school gardening programs in its annual report.  This will include how gardens are maintained during the summer when school is not in session.  One of the aims of GreenFutures is to share inspirational stories about how all schools can have school gardens. You can find the GreenFutures plan at www.philasd.org/greenfutures.

Author:  Amanda Mack, West Chester University Student, Ecology Major

Photographer:  Shiwei Zhu, Bryn Mawr College Student, Psychology Major

Summer Interns with the School District of Philadelphia - GreenFutures

Questions or ideas for the next blog?  Email greenfutures@philasd.org