Students harvest home-grown food

C.S. 211 kids ended their school year on a high note after growing their own food in a brand new edible garden.

The school, which is at 1919 Prospect Avenue, held a harvest event where each class came outdoors to pick, clean, and eat food they had planted. The plants were grown in beds with the help of teachers and the New York Botanical Garden’s Bronx Green-Up.

The Bronx Green-Up is a relatively young program, run by the Garden, that provides horticultural advice, technical assistance, and training to school groups and community organizations.

Ursula Chanse, director of Bronx Green-Up, was on the school’s grounds to help the students prepare vegetables. These included crops like scallions, lettuce, radishes, sweet peas, and broccoli.

“I think that when children realize they can grow their own food, it is very exciting,” Chanse said. “They learn to recognize plants, and are now familiar with them. They are actually tasting and eating the food that they grew.”

Each class was able to perform different kinds of activities, like planting seeds and weeding, depending on their age.

A butterfly garden was planted with only flowers known to attract butterflies.

A pumpkin patch is also planned.

Funding for the gardening program was provided by Councilman Joel Rivera.

“I always give credit where credit is due, and I want to thank Councilman Rivera for his grant for this project,” said C.S. 211 principal Betty Gonzalez-Soto. “With the grant, we were able to start a pilot program that provides hands-on experience in getting healthy.”

Gonzalez-Soto said that learning how to grow vegetables familiarizes the children with different kinds of healthy foods and encourages them to eat healthily more often.

Since C.S. 211 is called “The Bilingual School” and a third of the children are bilingual, the project is especially appropriate, said the principal.

One of the classic mainstays of bilingual education is culinary education, which helps students learn vocabulary by using their senses as they cook.

“This program provides higher-order thinking skills, and the Botanical Garden is well organized in presenting it,” Gonzalez-Soto said. “This will provide a lifetime of healthy eating habits. It is a beautiful thing seeing a child eating a plate of salad grown at our own school.”

Rivera’s chief of staff Albert Alvarez was also on hand during the harvest, as was Jason Goldewicz, one of the program’s founding teachers at the school.

Goldewicz said that the program grew from humble beginnings to eventually encompass all grades, K through 8.

“I wanted the kids to take away the sustainable aspect, making the connection between how food is grown and how it gets to their plates,” Goldewicz said.

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