Excitement was in the air for Week One of The Urban Design and Sustainability Program (UDSP). All students were introduced to the new learning-friendly design of the garden and its different plants. Students were treated to a special visit by BOD Executive Director Monica Ibacache, whose workshop showed students how they are already designers in their everyday lives. Inspired, they executed their first outdoor designs of the garden. Beyond Organic Design had many repeat participants who stepped up and became leaders.
The UDSP isn’t just gardening, though. Among other activities, the kids learn about nutrition and cooking. Week 1 emphasized the usefulness of canning for food preservation, tying into one of the 12 Permaculture Principles: Produce No Waste. Permaculture is a design system based on how nature designs itself, plus a fusion of indigenous farming practices and modern science. The students made pickles out of extra vegetables, instead of throwing them away. They also used browned bananas to make delicious muffins.
One class focused on seeds. Students planted radishes, lettuce, and arugula, to be observed and nurtured during the 5-week program. They were thrilled they would harvest their own plants, knowing they will later use them in a cooking class. This theme continued with the kids planting "Thought Seeds" during their Plant A Wish Arts & Crafts activity. They drew and wrote what they’d plant as a “seed” in the world to make it a better place, creating a colorful display of beautiful wishes for their families, peers, and all global citizens..
Unlike humans, nature creates no waste. The students geared up to use permaculture principles, as well as science, math, engineering, and art to understand why this is and how people can emulate nature. They reflected upon what habits we need to change to become less wasteful so we can enjoy a greener planet. They also made insect mobiles out of trash, which otherwise would have gone to a landfill or wound up in the ocean.
Kids love to get out of the classroom, so our field trip to Roosevelt Island, Grow To Learn Garden, was an opportunity to breathe fresh air and see a thriving example of urban agriculture in action. It is a magical and inspiring place for gardeners and sustainability enthusiasts. We admired their beautiful perennial and annual gardens, learned about the giant solar oven, and watered plants with rainwater from rain barrels. The children tasted fresh veggies and edible flowers, harvested carrots, and created beautiful art with plant parts. A wonderful end to Week 1 of the UDSP.