GREEN

Temporary Educational Garden
with Trenton Grows Inc. 501(c)(3), Victoria Covert
Client: International Academy of Trenton Charter School
Trenton, New Jersey
Completed Spring 2018

With the nonprofit, youth-oriented community gardening organization Trenton Grows, we established a “Garden Club” for first- through fifth-grade students at an underperforming charter school in Trenton, New Jersey.  We held twice-weekly meetings with about 25 to 30 student volunteers between the ages of six and 12, with the intended goal to facilitate educational experiences in gardening, nutrition, and fitness.  With the help of the students, we collaboratively designed, built, and operated a small, temporary educational garden on the school’s grounds using mostly recycled materials and a budget of approximately $1,000. 

Oblique Axonometric Plan

The temporary garden, built on a vacant concrete lot, was composed of the following elements:
-A curvilinear snake of recycled tires spray-painted light colors to decrease thermal absorption (and thus preserve water), filled with topsoil and fertilizer, and planted with non-edible flowers to aid in the local pollination ecosystem, and circumscribing an informal gathering space for Garden Club meetings
-Soil delivery staging area on tarp, with stacked tire storage cylinders, and wheelbarrow; existing gravel pile below
-Chalk hopscotch area (to encourage the release of excess energy before entering the meeting circle)
-Ten unbleached canvas bags of soil, planted with edible fruits and vegetables (including lettuce, swiss chard, collard greens, tomatoes, strawberries, and more) on a row of three tarp-covered standard-size shipping pallets (with tarp protecting plants from absorbing chemicals leached from treated pallet wood), and additional edible plantings in adjacent pots; hay bale for lining planting topsoil (to retain soil moisture and bolster organic fertilization)
-Leftover tires as exercise hurdles, also used as an impromptu seating area
-50-gallon rain barrel on plastic pallet, with hose rack; tool storage bin with shovels, trowels, watering buckets, knee pads; makeshift waiting bench constructed with wood plank on stacked plastic pallets

Through this hands-on process, we introduced the students to every phase of the organic gardening process, from seed to harvest:

Germinating seeds during our first Trenton Grows “Garden Club” meeting

The existing site (pre-garden), across the street from the pickup/drop-off entrance of the school

A curvilinear snake of recycled tires spray-painted light colors to decrease thermal absorption (and thus preserve water), circumscribing an informal gathering space for Garden Club meetings; topsoil delivery in background; fertilizer bin not pictured

“Garden Club” participants fill the tire planters with topsoil and fertilizer…

Planting non-edible flower seeds and seedlings to aid in the local pollination ecosystem

Leftover tires as exercise hurdles, also used as an impromptu seating area; ten unbleached canvas bags on a row of three tarp-covered standard-size shipping pallets (with tarp protecting plants from absorbing chemicals leached from treated pallet wood)…

Filled with topsoil and fertilizer…

Planting and watering edible fruit and vegetable seedlings, including lettuce, swiss chard, collard greens, tomatoes, strawberries, and more

Weeding, watering, taking care of our garden, and playing hopscotch

Celebrating our successful harvest with friends and family

A participant marvels at the “magic” that came from a simple handful of seeds, placed in soil, with plenty of water and sun

Saying goodbye, and sending participants home with the fruits of their labor

Unfortunately, the school closed permanently at the end of the 2017-’18 academic year

An endearing drawing given to us by a Garden Club participant

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