Children grades 3 through 8 are taking advantage of an amazing opportunity at Renaissance Charter School---the Urban Design & Sustainability Program (UDSP). They're expanding their horizons and becoming eco-citizens.
First up: an introduction to permaculture. It’s a design philosophy that mimics patterns of nature. We are all designers, because we design our lives every day. Children know the world’s connected, and permaculture teaches us that people aren’t separate from nature.
UDSP students’ first assignment was to jump in both with both feet and do a mock redesign of the school rooftop garden. They presented their designs to class, explaining why they placed each element where for maximum benefit.
They are being introduced to concepts of biodiversity, plant guilds, healthy soil composition, techniques for natural pest control, composting, and water catchment. But the UDSP isn’t just about the classroom. It’s experiential. Students pruned tomato plants and harvested vegetables and herbs from the rooftop garden, sampling string beans, green tomatoes, and carrots. They learned different methods of composting, including bokashi, the Japanese method of composting. They also created a compost bin on the roof.
And there were field trips. For Week 1, we took a ferry to Grow NYC’s learning garden on Governor’s Island. UDSP students participated in a cooking class, observed their rainwater harvesting, solar cooker, and planted some seeds. For Week 2, the UDSP crew toured Queens County Farm where students met the animals and took a hay ride. Students are learning how to design solutions to urban challenges---not only for their community, but for the world.
Justin Remus is the Communications Director of Beyond Organic Design.