Gardening can often be hot and tiring work. The students in the 3rd and 4th quarter Community Adventure Program class at PS1 Charter School in Denver didn’t think about this when they decided to to address urban gardening and local food production for their Action Project this spring. But what they found is that gardening can be many times more rewarding than they imagined.
To get inspired and pumped up for their Action Project, the students at PS1 began by watching a documentary about a group of people in Harlem who turned vacant lots into community gardens, and wrote reflections on their previous gardening experience. Next it was time to form a plan! The students researched and discussed the importance of community gardens, and decided to use a local organization, Atlantis Communities Inc. as a base for their project. Atlantis is an organization that connects people with disabilities in the Denver area to services available to them. They have a garden to grow food for clients who are home bound or cannot afford fresh food.
At this point, it was time to get their hands dirty,and dive into the soil at the Atlantis gardens! Terrence Turner, who manages the gardens, explained how Atlantis works and showed the students how to turn beds, make rows, and plant crops. Terrence is in a wheelchair and works full-time for Atlantis. Everyday for three weeks, the students sweated in the hot sun planting corn, potatoes, squash, onions, tomatoes, and pumpkins. They also created art pieces to be displayed in the gardens and non smoking signs. According to Terrance, “the girls did a great job I just wish they could have stayed longer. They are the best volunteers I have ever had. I would love to have them back asap. They did more work in the sort time than most.”
In the beginning, the students were not so happy about all the hard work involved in planting a garden. They voiced their complaints and even considered switching projects. But after much discussion everyone agreed that they wanted to continue their work for Atlantis. They realized that they were helping some of the most disadvantaged people in Denver get fresh food, and that their gardens would become a refuge for people in the neighborhood. Atlantis helps hundreds of people in the Denver Metro Area. Throughout the quarter the students not only contributed their energy and hard work to these people, but gained a great deal or compassion and understanding. In the end they were able to see everything they planted begin to peak up through the soil.
One student reflects on the experience, “I didn’t like the garden at first. It was hot out, and I was thirsty and tired all the time. But then I saw Terrance come out to see us in his wheelchair and he was so happy to have us there, and he was so thankful. I realized that we were doing something really nice.”