Carson Daly & KidsGardening.org Plant a Garden in Brooklyn

The TODAY Garden in full bloom
The TODAY Garden in full bloom

With 52 raised beds in place, over 400 plants, 15 pallets of organic soil, flooring, and irrigation, a beautiful, bountiful school garden grows in Brooklyn. This ideal edible school garden provides fresh fruits and vegetables as well as important environmental education lessons to 400 children attending the Brooklyn Arts and Science Elementary School and Exceed Charter in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. The garden initiative is led by KidsGardening.org, in collaboration with TODAY as part of part their “Shine a Light” series, a campaign to support worthy causes throughout 2014. TODAY show anchor, Carson Daly is leading the effort.

"We are giving them the power to battle hunger on their own turf and share what they learn throughout their communities," comments Carson. "Some of the food they grow will go back to food banks and some will go home with classmates in need. I can't feed every child in America but I can help make a difference one kid and one garden at a time." 

The TODAY garden design includes vertical elements to maximize the growing space while leaving enough room in the schoolyard children to engage in active play.
The TODAY garden design includes vertical elements to maximize the growing space while leaving enough room in the schoolyard children to engage in active play.

To truly transform a concrete and asphalt play space into an edible garden, KidsGardening.org recruited expert design services from White + Burke landscape architect Paul Simon. “Our challenge was to maximize the growing space while leaving enough room for children to continue to engage in active outdoor play,” says Simon. Once our design was completed, KidsGardening.org reached out to national companies for essential resources. Generous donations to make the garden possible came from companies across the country: Annie's donated $25,000 to support the garden, Sun Gro Horticulture provided organic soil, Bonnie Plants delivered vegetable starts, Ames provided essential tools and garden equipment,High Mowing Organic Seeds supplied us with organic seeds, Rain Bird andLifesource Irrigation installed a custom drip irrigation system, and ECORE Commercial Flooring laid the foundation of the garden with 800 square feet of flooring.  

Students, parents, and community members volunteer time after school and on the weekends to help construct the garden.
Students, parents, and community members volunteer time after school and on the weekends to help construct the garden.

With all the necessary resources in place, over 100 volunteers made the garden design come to life. Parents, teachers, students, and neighbors lent a hand in laying the flooring, construction of the garden’s raised beds and shed, and installation of the trellis walls. During the school day, classes rotated out to the garden to build additional raised beds and fill them with soil. Older students took inventory of seedlings and seeds, creating labels in preparation for our big planting day. 

Artist Mike Perry and Food Corp member Tiffany Torres work with students to create plant markers, decorate pots, and write thank you notes.
Artist Mike Perry and Food Corp member Tiffany Torres work with students to create plant markers, decorate pots, and write thank you notes.

 

Inside the classroom, Youth Education Programs Director Julia Parker-Dickerson engaged students and teachers in lessons and conversation about the importance of healthy foods and the science behind growing a garden. Lessons in the classroom included Flower Parts, Grocery Story Botany, Bees, Flowers, and Pollinationand many more from KidsGardening.org’s extensive curriculum collection.  Food Corpvolunteer Tiffany Torres and Brooklyn-based artist Mike Perry led preschool and first grade students in creating artwork to personalize the growing garden space. 

Outside in the garden, Carson Daly and Julia Parker-Dickerson led groups of students in basic botany lessons through hands-on planting experiences. With the plants in place, Lifesource Irrigation and Rain Bird irrigation expert Paul Anderson instructed students and teachers in the installation of a custom Rain Bird irrigation system and stayed to help teach 5th grade classrooms proper watering techniques for newly planted trees and seedlings. 

Julia Parker-Dickerson teaches students to plant seedlings donated by Bonnie Plants
Julia Parker-Dickerson teaches students to plant seedlings donated by Bonnie Plants

This summer has been busy with summer school groups and camps tending to the garden. Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit, has played a key role in helping to sustain the garden. The team has worked with the school and students to provide excess produce to families in need and to the larger community. In addition to helping to distribute produce, the Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger team has provided horticulture advice to teachers and arranges peer-mentoring opportunities for high school volunteers from outside programs to work with younger students to help maintain the TODAY garden and learn gardening basics.

Growing a garden at any school takes a team of dedicated volunteers.  Educators, students, parents, and community volunteers all have a role to play to maintain a space dedicated to improving the health of young people and fostering environmental stewardship. Learn how you can help to put a Garden in Every School®.


Learn more about Brooklyn Arts & Science Elementary School (PS 705) and Exceed Charter School.