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Sunday, November 25, 2012

In the Book Bag, More Garden Tools




Click here to read the full article from Lisa W. Foderaro at The New York Times

Across New York City, gardens and miniature farms — whether on rooftops or at ground level — are joining smart boards and digital darkrooms as must-have teaching tools. They are being used in subjects as varied as science, art, mathematics and social studies. In the past two years, the number of school-based gardens registered with the city jumped to 232, from 40, according to GreenThumb, a division of the parks department that provides schools with technical support.

But few of them come with the credential of the 2,400-square-foot garden at Avenue B and Fifth Street in the East Village, on top of a red-brick building that houses three public schools: the Earth School, Public School 64 and Tompkins Square Middle School. Michael Arad, the architect who designed the National September 11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan, was a driving force behind the garden, called the Fifth Street Farm.

The idea took shape four years ago among parents and teachers, when Mr. Arad’s son was still a student at the Earth School. The family has since moved from the neighborhood to Queens, but Mr. Arad, president of a nonprofit corporation that oversaw the garden, stayed on. The farm, with dozens of plants ranging from leeks to lemon balm, opened Oct. 19. Already, students have learned about bulbs and tubers, soil science and nutrition, while the cafeteria has cooked up fresh kale and spinach for lunch.

Mr. Arad said a conversation with his two children during an apple-picking trip spurred his interest in the farm. “They said, ‘What? Apples grow on trees?’ ” he recalled. “A lot of kids don’t get to go upstate. This is 365 days a year. It gives them an immediate, visceral connection to nature.”

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