Sophia A. is a freshman at Kinnelon High School. She is currently working on finishing her Silver Award project with the Kinnelon Girls Scouts. Sophia used an abandoned school courtyard to create a garden at Pearl R Miller (PRM) Middle School with the hope that it can evolve into a garden club in the upcoming school years. As part of her community outreach, Sophia contacted the Northeast Earth Coalition to help her spread the word about the benefits of vegetable gardening. Sophia’s project will be affiliated to our Urban Growers Program.
Sophia prepared the following summary of her project.
What community issue did you choose to address and why?
The courtyard at Pearl R Miller (PRM) Middle School has been abandoned for many years. I saw an opportunity to turn the courtyard into something productive and educational that could benefit the students in our community for many years to come. For my project I decided to create a vegetable garden in hopes that it can evolve into a “Gardening Club” in the upcoming school year.
In my experience children of my age and younger don’t know much about vegetables. Generally speaking, our generation has little to no knowledge about how to tend a garden or grow crops. Many children don’t even know what certain vegetables look like, not to mention what health benefits they might offer for their growing body. I am lucky because my family always grew vegetables at home and I learned to love working in the garden at an early age. With my project I wish to promote the joy of gardening, and educate children on the importance and benefits of growing fresh produce.
Asides from being a source of healthy food, gardening can benefit our physical and mental health. While working in the garden we soak up plenty of vitamin D (Sun), use our muscles and get our blood moving with low impact exercise. Gardening is proven to relieve stress and make us feel more peaceful and content when working outside.
What project did you choose and why does it matter?
I chose to create a community garden at Pearl R Miller Middle School in hopes that it can evolve into a “Gardening Club” with a strong educational purpose for many generations to enjoy.
Growing your own crops is very rewarding in many different ways. Working in the garden (nature) is said to promote relaxation and reduce stress. The produce you grow yourself is the freshest and healthiest food you can eat. It’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of how to grow your own crops, as fresh produce might be less readily available in the future because of drastic climate changes (wildfires, draughts, floods, violent storms, etc). Less availability leads to higher prices, which leads to food insecurity on a larger scale. Food insecurity is an ongoing problem and it will get worse. Less people will be able to afford buying fresh.
Community gardens are an investment into our health, mental well being, and a more sustainable future. Climate change is here, and we must take action NOW because our future depends on what we do today!
What was the most successful or rewarding part of your project?
Every step of the process is rewarding, but the most rewarding part of the project was seeing the vegetables grow and harvesting them! By the end of August, I had peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, sweet corn, zucchini, green cabbage, radishes, sweet potato, and lettuce growing. There is nothing like walking into your own garden and grabbing some fresh organic produce you grew.
What plans did you put in place to make your good work last?
Once the new school year starts, I will be in touch with Mrs. Naso (science teacher at PRM) who has volunteered to lead the Gardening Club at PRM while I continue my studies at the Kinnelon High School. I will work closely with her to make sure that the project doesn’t get abandoned.
I am planning to spend time in the garden next Spring to get the planting process started once it’s safe to plant outside. I am partnering up with the “Northeast Earth Coalition” (NEEC) in Montclair, NJ in hopes that we can distribute the crops we grow to one of the local food pantries providing fresh produce to those who can’t afford it.
Girl Scout Troop 95408