Christine Gordillo of the Lakewood City Schools contributed to this article.
With assistance from LakewoodAlive, Harrison Elementary has been awarded a $2,000 grant from the Whole Kids Foundation, the charitable arm of Whole Foods Market, to build and maintain a community garden on school grounds.
The grant enables LakewoodAlive to assist Harrison Elementary with constructing four raised beds at the school located within Lakewood’s Historic Birdtown Neighborhood. LakewoodAlive serves as a community partner in the grant, coordinating volunteers to build beds and prepare for planting this spring, as well as providing ongoing support with maintaining the garden.
LakewoodAlive Community Engager Mark McNamara, who has completed a gardening course, will oversee construction of the beds. Through its Housing Outreach Program, LakewoodAlive places strong emphasis on fostering community vibrancy in Birdtown, a low-to-moderate income neighborhood that’s steeped in history.
“Birdtown began in the late 1800’s as a working-class neighborhood where many residents supplemented their food by establishing their own vegetable gardens,” said McNamara. “There was a time when people lost touch with the source of their food but now, generations later, we’ve come full-circle. The Birdtown Neighborhood now has two urban orchards and an urban farm, and we’re excited to add this community garden that can serve as an educational tool for students.”
Plans are in the works to share the harvest from the garden with Harrison Elementary families. Members of the Harrison Garden Club and campers from Camp Can Do, held at Harrison each summer, will collaborate to water the garden.
In writing the grant, English Language Learner teacher Tiffany Hickey said: “We would like to use our garden space as an outdoor classroom for all grade levels. The students will reconnect with nature and understand real sources of food. They will learn about agriculture and gardening, which are priceless life skills. The students will also learn personal responsibility from caring for the garden. The garden will provide opportunities for learning across subject areas including: science, health, social studies, and math. The students will learn focus and patience, cooperation, teamwork and social skills.”