National grant award recognizes successful youth garden projects that incorporate educationOctober 17, 2012 – The 2012 Green Thumb Challenge $5,000 grant has been awarded to Green Chimneys School, a therapeutic day school for more than 200 special needs children from the Greater New York Metropolitan area. This year, 215 entries were received for the grant, which called on youth garden programs from across the country to demonstrate the impact of their garden on the community and the students.
Maree Gaetani, Gardening Relations Director at Gardener’s Supply, commented on the winning garden program: "Green Chimneys School’s garden program exemplifies all the qualities we’re seeking in a grant winner. The garden is an integral part of the students’ learning experience, providing valuable science, math and language arts lessons, while also contributing to the well-being and health of the students and the community."
Since the founding of Green Chimneys in 1947, their gardening program has played an important part in the lives of the student. Many of their special needs students experience emotional disturbance and mental illness. The goal of the school is to work with each child to learn to cope with their disabilities and deal with their deficits. Students learn to reconnect, to relearn basic social skills, and to rebuild the self-esteem that will allow progress towards a high functioning life. In meeting these goals, the gardening program becomes an effective teaching tool as students see first-hand that their contribution makes a difference. They learn that their hard work produces results, not only the creation of produce for the rest of the school to eat at the dining hall, but also the recognition they receive for their change in behavior and improvement of their social skills.
Green Chimneys School’s gardening program is integrated into the curriculum and is provided to every student as part of the regularly scheduled school day. In addition to the integration of the gardens into science, math and language arts classes, formal gardening classes are taught year-round by a certified horticultural therapist. During the spring, summer and fall months, classes are held in one of their organic gardens, where planting maintenance and harvesting of the crops are taught. In the winter, students learn about the scientific side of horticulture, such as plant anatomy and seed propagation in the greenhouse. Last year, students raised over 7,500 pounds of produce that was used in the school’s dining hall, the life skill and nutrition classes, their farm stand, as well as their Green Cuisine Culinary Arts Program.
Each of the 2012 grant applicants offered a unique and inspiring chronicle of their student garden project. Gardener’s Supply is awarding each of the five finalist garden programs with a garden cart. The runners-up are the Christa McAuliffe School Reservoir Project of Jersey City, New Jersey; the Emmaus House Kids Community Garden of LaGrange, Georgia; R.M. Miano Elementary of Los Banos, California; Eden Autism Services of Princeton, New Jersey; and Bard High School Early College of New York, New York. More information about the winner and each runner up is available on GEF’s website.
GEF, a sustainability education non-profit, launched the Green Thumb Challenge in late 2009. The largest youth gardening initiative in history, the Green Thumb Challenge is a free program that mobilizes schools and youth groups to connect with nature through plants and gardening and incorporates standards-based lessons and activities related to gardening in the classroom. GEF’s comprehensive website, www.greeneducationfoundation.org, includes all the resources and tools necessary to start a garden, find lessons and activities, and have a successful, sustainable garden program.
About Green Education Foundation (GEF)Green Education Foundation (GEF) is a non-profit organization committed to creating a sustainable future through education. Sustainability education provides educators with the real-world applied learning models that connect science, technology, and math education with the broader human concerns of environmental, economic, and social systems. GEF provides curriculum and resources to K-12 students and teachers worldwide with the goal of challenging them to think holistically and critically about global environmental concerns and solutions.
Become a member for free to gain full access to GEF’s comprehensive library of standards-based lessons and activities at www.greeneducationfoundation.org. Join the sustainability education conversation by following GEF on Twitter @greenedufdn and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greenedufoundation.