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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).

 

More snapshots from 2019’s 4th of July Parade

2019’s 4th of July Parade ended, as it always does, at the fountain at Maryland Plaza. There, parents visited as the kids and some pups cooled their feet in the water.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For kids  CWE North Community Improvement District CWE Neighborhood Security Initiative Central West End Association   Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For kids  CWE North Community Improvement District CWE Neighborhood Security Initiative Central West End Association

The size of this year’s crowd is indicated by the long lines for snow cones and popcorn.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For kids  CWE North Community Improvement District CWE Neighborhood Security Initiative Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For kids  CWE North Community Improvement District CWE Neighborhood Security Initiative Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For kids  CWE North Community Improvement District CWE Neighborhood Security Initiative Central West End Association

Face painters were busy throughout the morning.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For kids  CWE North Community Improvement District CWE Neighborhood Security Initiative Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For kids  CWE North Community Improvement District CWE Neighborhood Security Initiative Central West End Association

 

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For kids  CWE North Community Improvement District CWE Neighborhood Security Initiative Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For kids  CWE North Community Improvement District CWE Neighborhood Security Initiative Central West End Association   Finally, the 4th of July Family Parade wouldn’t happen without the hard work and dedication of organizers and sponsors including, from left: Jess Campbell, executive director of the Central West End Association, top photo: CWEA Board Members including from left: Kim Brown, Bob Brown, President Kate Walter, and Greg Stroube. Below right: Kate Haher, executive director of CWE North Community Improvement District, her husband Andy, and daughters Reagan and Abby.

And of course, many thanks to Jim Whyte, executive director of the CWE Neighborhood Security Initiative, and 5th District SLMPD officers for redirecting traffic during the parade. They work behind-the-scenes but make an important contribution to the success of this wonderful tradition.

Snapshots from CWEA’s 4th of July Family Parade

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  Neighborhood Security Initiative Jim Whyte CWENorthCommunity Improvement District Central West End Association 4th of July Family Parade Central West End Association

2019’s 4th of July Family Parade, sponsored by the Central West End Association and the CWE North Community Improvement District, marks the 38th year the event has taken place in the neighborhood.  The parade, which started in 1981 (view post here), has come full circle—some of this year’s participants were toddlers then, and brought their own kids to this year’s event.

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  Neighborhood Security Initiative Jim Whyte CWENorthCommunity Improvement District Central West End Association 4th of July Family Parade Central West End Association

Top right: Once again Tim O’Connor led the parade in his vintage red Mustang. Bottom left: 5th District Lieutenant Dan Zarrick is photographed with CWE Neighborhood Security Initiative’s Executive Director Jim Whyte, his wife Lori, and daughter Janetta.

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  Neighborhood Security Initiative Jim Whyte CWENorthCommunity Improvement District Central West End Association 4th of July Family Parade Central West End Association

There were clowns from Circus Kaput to entertain at the start of the parade, and balloon artists and face painters at parade’s end at the Maryland Plaza fountain.

See more photos taken along the parade route below:

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  Neighborhood Security Initiative Jim Whyte CWENorthCommunity Improvement District Central West End Association 4th of July Family Parade Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  Neighborhood Security Initiative Jim Whyte CWENorthCommunity Improvement District Central West End Association 4th of July Family Parade Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  Neighborhood Security Initiative Jim Whyte CWENorthCommunity Improvement District Central West End Association 4th of July Family Parade Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  Neighborhood Security Initiative Jim Whyte CWENorthCommunity Improvement District Central West End Association 4th of July Family Parade Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  Neighborhood Security Initiative Jim Whyte CWENorthCommunity Improvement District Central West End Association 4th of July Family Parade Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  Neighborhood Security Initiative Jim Whyte CWENorthCommunity Improvement District Central West End Association 4th of July Family Parade Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  Neighborhood Security Initiative Jim Whyte CWENorthCommunity Improvement District Central West End Association 4th of July Family Parade Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  Neighborhood Security Initiative Jim Whyte CWENorthCommunity Improvement District Central West End Association 4th of July Family Parade Central West End Association

Upper right: Jim Whyte photographed with 28th Ward Alderwoman Heather Navarro.

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  Neighborhood Security Initiative Jim Whyte CWENorthCommunity Improvement District Central West End Association 4th of July Family Parade Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  Neighborhood Security Initiative Jim Whyte CWENorthCommunity Improvement District Central West End Association 4th of July Family Parade Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  Neighborhood Security Initiative Jim Whyte CWENorthCommunity Improvement District Central West End Association 4th of July Family Parade Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  Neighborhood Security Initiative Jim Whyte CWENorthCommunity Improvement District Central West End Association 4th of July Family Parade Central West End Association

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  Neighborhood Security Initiative Jim Whyte CWENorthCommunity Improvement District Central West End Association 4th of July Family Parade Central West End Association

Up next: Part II: 2019 4th of July Parade