Our lettuce transplants are getting bigger every day, snappy radish roots are turning red under the soil, and the peas are starting to vine. It’s time for Salad Days at the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden! Shakespeare called a person’s youth “salad days” for a reason: these are the sweetest days of the year, when everything seems possible. Especially a delicious salad! We’re in our last week of this wonderful program, which ends on Friday, June 5.
To learn more about all the crops in our plots, dig in with the staff in the Family Garden. We’re excited about our first harvest of the season and celebrating salads in all sorts of ways. Visitors can create a paper plate salad to learn more about plant parts as we make art. Measure and mix the dried herbs you need to take home a salad dressing to finish and enjoy at home. Explore the garden with a scavenger hunt learning more about the plant parts that make up a salad.
Every week during the school year, more than 1,200 young children participate in specially designed school programs developed and taught at the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden (ECAG). And that number swells to about 1,600 during New York City’s school testing weeks in April when more students stream into ECAG’s gardens and facilities because upper grades are taking tests.
“During the spring we see a big uptick in the number of school field trips. Our facility can serve over 2,000 students per week, allowing us to deliver programming to more children than any other children’s venue within NYBG,” says Fran Agnone, Coordinator of the Adventure Garden.
A flock of migrating birds fly from one end of the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden to the other, flapping their wings and erupting with birdcalls as they go. They’re migrating from New York to Mexico and back again.
There’s one in pink shorts, and another in a NYBG t-shirt. One in a sunhat swoops past a bed of lettuce. These “birds” are actually children participating in a nature activity in the Children’s Gardening Program.
One of them, young gardener Adena Zitrin, and her mother, Debra Asher-Zitrin, have participated in the Sprouts program, for kids ages 3 to 5, for the past two years.
“It’s unlike any class we’ve ever taken—and we’ve taken music, art, and gym classes,” Debra said. “There’s something very bonding that goes on between the parent and the child in CGP. It’s very sweet, the working together that goes on.”
Debra’s two older children also participated in Sprouts and are now Crafters, the program for kids ages 6 to 12.
Each year, as spring sets in and the ground thaws, First Lady Michelle Obama takes to the White House’s Kitchen Garden to replant it for the season. Naturally, she doesn’t do this alone! Tackling the task alongside the First Lady this year were several of The New York Botanical Garden’s own greenthumbs who’d made the trek down to Washington, D.C., as part of the Let’s Move! fifth anniversary.
Students Nare Kande, a fourth-grader from Harlem; and Sarala Beepat, a sixth-grader from the Bronx; joined Toby Adams, the Director of NYBG’s Edible Academy, to help plant radish seeds, bok choy, and other vegetables with Mrs. Obama on April 15. Each student has plenty of experience planting and tending the vegetable beds of NYBG’s Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden as part of our Children’s Gardening Program, so they certainly had the skills needed to help kickstart spring at the White House.
Marissa Ayala is a school garden pioneer, at least in the eyes of her students and colleagues at Muscota New School in Manhattan.
Ayala had taken informational gardening courses before, but needed to polish how she tied gardening skills back to K–5 science curriculum. So, she enrolled in School Gardening 101 in February this year at The New York Botanical Garden. She wanted to get to know other educators who share her mission and to gain NYBG staff expertise to elevate her knowledge and ability to instruct a more rigorous curriculum.
“I wanted to make sure the garden was used in as meaningful a way as it could be,” she said.
Her biggest takeaway was the idea of intentionality; her students investigate specific scientific concepts on each visit to their garden plots—from photosynthesis and renewable energy to geometry and problem solving. This way, Ayala connects the purpose of each visit to the curriculum taught in her classroom.
Pull on your galoshes and best gardening gloves, because spring is just two weeks away! Soon, kids ages 3–5 and 6–12 will learn about spring crops and beautiful early bloomers, like tulips and daffodils, in the Children’s Gardening Program, which kicks off later this month.
Kids in the Children’s Gardening Program learn about plant life, from soil all the way to the treetops. They get to take part in the process by planting their own veggie garden plots and digging for worms—key players in the composting and soil enrichment processes. There’s plenty more fun with songs, crafts, and nature-inspired activities that indulge in kids’ desire to know more about the inner workings of the environment around them.
“What is that?”
“What lives in there? Are they dangerous? Do they bite?”
And, loudest of all, “EWWWWWW!”
These are some of the many questions (and noises of disgust) hurled in retaliation to the dripping, mucky leaf pack I hold up at the front of the classroom. Water fresh from the Bronx River streams from the decomposing leaves into a bucket below, and an odor that could be described as either “earthy” or “gross” pervades the GreenSchool classroom. My charges for the next 90 minutes—a group of unsuspecting middle schoolers—want nothing to do with whatever is going on in that mess of organic matter. Little do they know that within minutes they’ll be clamoring to sort through the leaves and rocks and mysterious river sludge to find living treasures underneath…
The Garden will be open for regular hours on Monday, February 16, for Presidents’ Day—but that’s just the beginning! On that same day, NYBG is thrilled to welcome Carla Hall, celebrity chef, co-host of ABC’s The Chew, and NYBG Edible Academy Committee Member, for a live cooking demonstration at 12:30 p.m. to kick off Carla Hall’s Culinary Kids Week! This family-friendly food festival invites kids to explore the relationships between plants, farms, and their favorite foods through a full schedule of programs and activities.
What is an ethnobotanist, anyway? This was the question on the minds of six New York City public school students who were accepted to participate in Ethnobotany Explorers, a new summer academic enrichment program offered to middle through high school students.
Funded in partnership with New York City Department of Education STEM Matters, these lucky teens got to spend four weeks in July learning the answer while building on a tradition of enthnobotanical scientific study at The New York Botanical Garden that goes back over a century.