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New City School: The ABCs of creating a community garden

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

Earlier this summer I found CWEnd-based illustrator Maggie Pearson (see 2013 post here) picking juneberries, aka service berries, on Euclid. She was a little sheepish about getting “caught,” as she wasn’t sure that picking berries off city trees was legal (she later found out that it’s ok).

It seems that birds had devoured berries from 15 juneberry trees on New City School’s campus at Lake and Waterman, and Maggie was scrambling to gather enough fruit to make jam for the school’s Farmer’s Market. That’s when I first learned that Maggie and another parent, Julie Lazaroff, had started a community garden at New City School the previous summer.

Their game plan, including information regarding grants they received, may offer a blueprint for others thinking of organizing a community garden at their own children’s school.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

When I followed up with a visit at the end of June, the women said this project had been on their radar for a long time. Maggie was largely responsible the garden’s design—”she has a beautiful aesthetic,” Julie said.  Julie, a dietician and yoga teacher, credits an apprenticeship at EarthDance Organic Farms with adding to her knowledge of soil preparation and plant materials.Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

Last July the “partners in crime,” as Maggie, left, and Julie, right, identify themselves, started work with encouragement from New City’s Head of School Alexis Wright and advice from Matt Lebon of Custom Foodscaping. They removed a tether ball and digging area to make room for the new garden.  The school’s groundskeeper Bill Sprung built the arbor, trellis, and planting beds. A group of 20 volunteers had the garden up and running by the start of the 2018/2019 school year.

The area is designated as additional classroom space for 1st through 6th graders. “We are teaching our kids to be Stewards of the Earth,” said Maggie. “In addition to learning how to grow food, they’re using math skills when they plant seeds, and learning lessons in environmental science as well.”

Last spring, 3rd graders planted radish seeds, then harvested and tasted them 30 days later.  Julie took the radish greens home and made pesto and quiche for the kids to sample. New City is in the process of raising funds for a maker space that would include a kitchen so that the kids can learn to cook what they grow at school.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

Photographs above: Parent volunteers at work in the garden, and snapshots of the Garden Club’s Farmer’s Markets (there were 2 last year). Proceeds from sales are used to purchase seeds and other supplies for the garden.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

The pair was able to secure two grants for their project. A grant from the Whole Kids Foundation (Whole Foods) was used for the garden’s infrastructure, and a second, awarded by Missouri Wild Ones, was used for a pollinator garden which they planted alongside the school, shown above.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

The pollinator garden at work, above.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright   Left above: New City offers outdoor classroom experiences for pre-schoolers as well. Just outside the entry to the 3-to-4 year old classrooms there are a few vegetable beds which are tended by pre-school teachers during the school year, and the garden committee in the summer. Right: Last February there was a “Chicken Arrival Party” for chickens rented from locally-owned The Easy Chicken. Fuego & Ginger (names chosen by the students) were cared for by a different grade each week. The chickens were sent home for r & r this summer, and will return in the fall.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

After all the rain we’ve had this summer, the kale and Swiss chard were flourishing when I visited. Bottom photo left: Felt “smart pots” are filled with herbs for a sensory experience. Bottom right: The committee planted strawberries as “eye candy” for the kids, hardy kiwi, blackberries, and a fig tree.Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright   Grape vines are growing on a new fence built by Julie and Maggie’s husbands at the east edge of the garden.

Over the summer vacation, committee members stop by twice a week to weed and harvest. There are three other community gardens on Waterman between Kingshighway and New City School. The granddaddy of them all is the CWE Farm which was started 10 years ago by Arthur Culbert (and which I have posted about many times). There is also a garden at Central Reform Congregation and at First Unitarian Church.

The organizers of New City’s community garden thank Arthur Culbert for his contribution of advice, plant materials, and herbs he’s brought to their garden.  Most importantly though, Culbert created a citizenship curriculum for New City 4th graders, and the food the students help plant is donated to food pantries at Trinity Episcopal Church and Second Presbyterian Church. His initiative became the catalyst for Central Reform and First Unitarian, some Westminster Place neighbors and now New City to join in the effort to feed those less fortunate in the neighborhood.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

The photo above shows New City’s soccer field with a section of the garden in the foreground.

Julie and Maggie are mindful of the fact that there has to be a plan of succession when their children graduate from New City. They have begun working on a long-term integrated program with Head of School Alexis Wright.

The women are visibly proud of what they have created and excited that the garden has become a learning experience for the parents who volunteer as well.  Many have taken what they’ve learned home to start vegetable gardens of their own. That, plus seeing reluctant eaters at least taste a radish, makes it all worthwhile. “My 5-year-old, Auggie, really disliked salad until we started growing our own lettuce,” Maggie said. “Now he loves it.”

New City School, 5209 Waterman (at Lake).

 

M.A.D.E., a “maker space” opens on Delmar

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

On November 16 entrepreneurs Jim McKelvey and Doug Auer (top photo), along with Cortex’s President and CEO Dennis Lower (bottom photo: middle), hosted a ribbon cutting for M.A.D.E. (Makers, Artists, Designers, Entrepreneurs), a new 33,000 s.f. maker space at 5127 Delmar.

The grand opening marked the one year anniversary since the abrupt closure of all 10 TechShops across the country, including one located in the CWE’s Cortex Innovation District where there were 500 members. As soon as the news broke, McKelvey contacted both Auer, his partner in Third Degree Glass Factory, and Lower and together “we vowed we would be the city that saved our maker space.”

They acquired TechShop’s equipment, purchased the vacant building directly across from the The Glass Factory that formerly housed a Vespa dealership, and immediately got to work renovating the space. Amazingly, the total gut rehab project was accomplished in less than one year!

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

In his welcoming remarks Jim McKelvey, above left, the co-founder of the Square payment device, said the camaraderie and inspiration of makers at TechShop in San Francisco was very important to him when he was developing the Square prototype.

He added that Mayor Lyda Krewson and the City of St. Louis were extremely helpful in facilitating the quick opening of M.A.D.E. “Getting it up and running within a year wouldn’t have been possible without their cooperation. This is Phase 1,” he continued, “Phase 2 will house The Magic House for children on the second floor, which is set to open this summer. (More on this exciting news follows.)

In time, McKelvey, Auer and Lower plan to transform the entire area on and around Delmar into a “maker zone.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

Mayor Krewson drew a laugh when she recalled a phone call from Doug Auer and Jim McKelvey 15 years ago when she was 28th Ward Alderman: “We’re interested in a vacant building on Delmar…a few people will be blowing glass…” The wildly successful Third Degree Glass Factory opened in 2002 and Krewson said she has learned over time that “Doug can build anything, and Jim can do anything.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

Beth Fitzgerald, president of Magic House said her board wanted to expand its reach into north city and they contacted Cortex’s Dennis Lower for ideas. When Magic House opens this summer at M.A.D.E., the board’s vision will be realized. This summer is also the 40th anniversary of the opening of Magic House in Kirkwood. Magic House at M.A.D.E., which will offer classes and camps with a focus on STEAM education, is geared toward elementary and middle school children.

In his final remarks McKelvey said, “Come here and play. If you don’t know how to use the equipment, ask us. There are no rules—well,” he laughed, “there is a waiver.”

The photos below show a small sampling of what is available at M.A.D.E.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

Top photo: Textiles teacher Sheila Lenkman also works part time for The Repertory Theater. She explained that, for beginners, the first step is to sign up to learn how to use the equipment, which includes a long-arm quilter.  There will be classes based on the needs of the community whether that is pattern making, installing zippers, etc.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

It was fun to see CWEnder Melody Walker in her new role as Economic Development Editor at St. Louis Public Radio. Follow her on Twitter here.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

Left: Wiley Price IV, newly elected to represent District 84 in the Missouri House of Representatives, and right: Price with Justin Idelburg, left, community leader in Ward 26, and Doug Auer.Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education For Children Services Shop News  Wiley Price IV Third Degree Glass Factory St. Louis Public Radio Melody Walker Mayor Lyda Krewson Maker Space Magic House M.A.D.E. Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Cortex Innovation Community

M.A.D.E., 5127 Delmar, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Membership is $50 per month plus a small hourly fee to use the equipment. For more information, visit the website.

The Biome School adds modular classrooms at Olive & Taylor

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education Services  The Biome School Mackey Mitchell Architects Bill Kent Jr.

The Biome School, a St. Louis City public charter school located in the CWE at 4471 Olive Street, is bursting at the seams and has begun installing modular classrooms on a vacant parcel at the corner of Olive and Taylor to accommodate an expected 220-230 students in academic year 2019.

The school, which opened in August 2015 with 2 Kindergarten and 1 first grade classrooms of 20 students each, has added a grade each year, so that now there are 178 students in grades K to 4.

When completed, the modular classrooms (renderings are shown below) will house 3rd and 4th grade students. They will be joined in August of 2019 by 5th grade students, the final grade in the school’s expansion plans.

According to Founding President and CEO Bill Kent Jr., the temporary classrooms, which are expected to remain in use for up to 7-years, gives them time to develop a long-range master-site plan.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education Services  The Biome School Mackey Mitchell Architects Bill Kent Jr.

The Biome, a STEAM school (science, technology, engineering, math, plus art), is committed to serving all children within the City of St. Louis, especially those in low-income areas who lack educational choices.  Charter schools are tuition-free and receive 75% of their funding from the State of Missouri. The remaining funding comes from private donations. State funds cannot be used for facilities. To learn more about how The Biome School spun off from the Youth Learning Center, an after-school tutoring center that opened in 2003, read my original post here.Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education Services  The Biome School Mackey Mitchell Architects Bill Kent Jr.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education Services  The Biome School Mackey Mitchell Architects Bill Kent Jr.

According to Kent, the proposal for the temporary use of modular classrooms as an interim solution to their growing student population was supported by 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy, 28th Ward Alderman Heather Navarro, and the Central West End Association Planning & Development Committee. The permit application was approved by the City’s Cultural Resources Office and Board of Public Service.

Kent said The Biome School strives to be a good neighbor and is committed to not only maintaining but improving the value and aesthetics of their property. They’ve been pleased to share the empty lot at the corner—which they purchased in December, 2015—with the community, which has used it as a dog park until recently, when site preparation activities commenced.

.Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Education Services  The Biome School Mackey Mitchell Architects Bill Kent Jr.

Neighbors have complained about the long line of traffic in front of the school during pick up and drop off, which Kent said typically lasts for 20 to 25 minutes twice a day. The new modular classroom structures will allow The Biome to operate two drive lanes on the parking lot (see Mackey Mitchell Architects site plan above), which should reduce the number of cars staging on Olive.

Bill Kent’s greatest hope is that neighbors will join The Biome School in its mission of educating children by volunteering, participating in literacy mornings, and other activities. “Relationship building creates opportunities for collaboration and serves as a springboard for effective problem solving before or when issues arise,” he added.

For questions, contact Bill Kent by email: bkent@thebiomeschool.org