| Sarah Rudeen

Growing Plants in the Forbidden Hallway at STRIVE Prep – Sunnyside

img_2587What to do with a stairway with south-facing windows and a warm radiator that is in plain view of passing students? Build a window garden, of course! Students in the Community Adventure Program (CAP) at STRIVE Prep – Sunnyside perceived a lack of access to healthy, fresh food in their community and wanted to inspire their fellow students to start growing food at home. By using a “forbidden hallway” — disallowed by school rules but easy to see the end of a long corridor — they were able to showcase an easy-to-make window garden inside their own school.

Before picking an Action Project, students discussed many issues in their school community that could be addressed: water waste, electricity usage, litter, food waste in the cafeteria, and lack of access to healthy food. In September, the group participated in an urban garden volunteer project with Re:Vision in the Westwood neighborhood. Inspired by what they learned there, they settled on food access as the most reasonable issue to tackle and set to work with researching ways to garden indoors. Winter was fast approaching! The simplest and most accessible design uses only plastic bottles, string, and ceiling hooks.

img_2573Students co-wrote a letter to a school administrator to ask for permission to use the selected window. Once approved, they got to work cutting 2-liter soda bottles in half and poking a few holes for drainage in the bottoms. Next, they wrapped twine around the bottles to create vertical cascades that would help drain water and better utilize the window space. Filling the cut bottles with moist soil and planting the seeds according to the described depth on seed packages, the vertical garden was nearly complete. Carefully walking the prepared bottles to the end of the corridor, CAP instructors hung the newly minted gardens in the south-facing window to soak up the sunlight. Beans, tomatoes, lettuce, chives, peas, and basil were all primed to grow inside the school walls!

To the students’ delight, the seeds sprouted quickly. The beans did especially well (one plant at the top was lovingly named “Barnabas”) and there is great hope for their future. Being cared for at home over winter break, CAP students look forward to harvesting the fruits of their labor and teaching their community about the ease and benefits of growing food in their own homes.

A special thanks goes out to all of our supporters and funders that help make our partnership with STRIVE Preparatory Schools possible this school year, including: Ladd Foundation, Larrk Foundation, and PeyBack Foundation.

Written by: CAP Instructor, Sarah Rudeen


Categories: Action Projects, Community Adventure Program, Program News, STRIVE Prep

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