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Partnership with Citysprouts brings new garden to the David Ellis Elementary School in Roxbury

Posted by Patrick Rosso  July 25, 2013 05:22 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/

Crews worked on the new garden plot Thursday.

When students at the David Ellis Elementary School in Roxbury return from their summer vacation in the fall they will have a new addition to their school: a 40-foot by 24-foot raised bed garden.

Crews with CitySprouts, a nonprofit that provides garden space and educational programs for schools, started work on the Ellis’ new garden Thursday morning.

Eventually after several hundred hours of work, a once grassy patch on the K-5 school’s campus will be transformed into a garden for its students.

“Our mission is to get teachers doing garden-based learning as part of their teaching practices,” explained Jane Hirschi, executive director of CitySprouts.

Founded in 2000 and based in Cambridge, CitySprouts has partnered with Cambridge schools for well over a decade, but has only recently begun working with Boston Public Schools.

The Ellis garden is the fourth garden the organization has brought to a BPS school, with gardens also at the Orchard Gardens K-8 School, the Dearborn Middle School, and the Mather Elementary School.

“We’re developing a resource for the teachers. We want to create something that they can use in their everyday curriculum, so when they are doing their standard lessons they can incorporate the garden,” said Hirschi.

The organization will partner with the Ellis for three years, providing resources and aiding the develop of a gardening program at the school.

“One of the challenges for school gardens is teachers can’t find a way to make it relevant, so we want to help make it fit into their curriculum,” Hirschi said. “The teachers are the ones in charge of the curriculum and we are the ones bringing the resources.”

On Thursday crews with Siena Construction leveled out the future location of the garden. CitySprouts pays for the new garden and provides the school with a part time garden coordinator as part of the program, and luckily Siena has also gotten behind the effort providing employees and equipment pro bono.

“Our industry is dedicated to making communities better and this is an extension of that,” explained Terrence Hayes, president of Siena, which is based in Cambridge.

The new garden will be handicapped accessible and will provide a home for a number of vegetable varieties. Some will be planted by CitySprouts staff before the school year starts, with the school’s students also planting their own vegetables throughout the season.

“Kids are often alienated from nature and the food they eat,” explained Hirschi. “When they are engaged through a garden they make healthier choices.”

From using math equations learned in the classroom to measure the growth of plants to understanding the basic biology of a vegetable, Hirschi said that it’s the excitement that the students feel working in the garden that CitySprouts believes translates to a closer relationship with nature and better performance in the classroom.

“In a normal school day they go to class, the computer lab, the cafeteria and now the garden, and we want them to see that as normal,” said Hirschi.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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