It’s harvest season for the Harrison Elementary Community Garden and the inaugural year has resulted in a banner crop.
Four raised garden beds at the northern end of the school’s grounds have produced broccoli, cabbage, kale, peppers, radishes and tomatoes. LakewoodAlive Community Engager Mark McNamara distributes the vegetables to student families throughout the Historic Birdtown Neighborhood.
“Birdtown began in the late 1800’s as a working-class neighborhood where residents often supplemented their food by planting their own vegetable gardens,” said McNamara. “It’s great to see it come full-circle to the point where we’ve been able to establish a community garden that not only produces food, but also serves as an educational opportunity for students.”
The project arose this past spring when Harrison Elementary – led by teacher Tiffany Hickey – was 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. LakewoodAlive serves as a community partner in the grant, coordinating volunteers to support and maintain the garden.
On May 2 a group of volunteers comprised of LakewoodAlive staff, Harrison Elementary staff and students, Lakewood High School football players and community members constructed the Harrison Elementary Community Garden. Planting commenced the following week under the guidance of volunteer Emil Girod.
Campers from Camp Can Do, held at Harrison each summer, have taken the lead with watering the Harrison Elementary Community Garden. Both Girod and McNamara monitor the garden on a regular basis.
In addition to providing healthy nourishment, the community garden has already served as a valuable learning tool, and will continue to do so once the new school year commences. Said Hickey in writing the grant: “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.”
Through its Housing Outreach Program, LakewoodAlive places strong emphasis on fostering community vibrancy in Birdtown, a low-to-moderate income neighborhood on the eastern edge of Lakewood that’s steeped in history. For more information, please visit LakewoodAlive.org/HousingOutreach.