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Everything Grows: Lower School Science Program Builds STEM Knowledge and Community

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Science in Manhattan Country School’s Lower School is a time for students to explore and engage deeply with the natural spaces in our community. We are outside for the majority of the year, rain or shine, using areas like Central Park and Riverside Park as living laboratories for science learning. These green spaces provide amazing opportunities for hands-on science investigations and space to help our students develop deep and loving connections with the earth.

One green space in our community that our students have gotten to know very well is the Urban Assembly School for Green Careers (UAGC) garden on the corner of West 84th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. This educational garden, which has been under the care of students who attend UAGC (also located on West 84th Street), is truly an oasis on this bustling city block. The garden hosts native plant and tree species, is teeming with wildlife throughout the year and is the site of a student-led farmer’s market during the summer.

When MCS moved into its new home in 2016, we developed a partnership with UAGC, which shares our core values of sustainability and environmental justice. We were given access to the garden and our very own plot to farm, providing our students with a beautiful green space close to school that they could explore and the opportunity to continue developing their knowledge of sustainable urban agriculture. In exchange, UAGC students took a trip to the MCS Farm in the Catskills, where many of them got to see a rural farm for the first time and take part in all of the activities and duties required to keep the farm running. On top of this exchange, MCS students and UAGC students continue to collaborate in the city on the various garden projects needed to maintain the health and vitality of the Urban Assembly garden.

MCS’ partnership with UAGC continues to grow along with our students’ excitement, enthusiasm and love for the garden. Children in the 4-5s through the 8-9s currently share the responsibility for being the caretakers of the MCS garden plot, where they plant, maintain and harvest the fruits and vegetables that they choose to grow. They work with the garden’s compost system, turning the compost on a weekly basis while they observe how the organic matter they put into it breaks down into fertilizer that can then be used to replenish our soils. They identify the different birds, trees, herbs, insects, flowers, fruits and vegetables that are in the garden, and explore every nook and cranny so that nothing is left unseen. With every burst of excitement of something discovered or smile of satisfaction from a vegetable successfully grown and eagerly eaten, I am reminded of how lucky we are to be a part of such an amazing natural space in our community.

If you are interested in taking a tour of the Urban Assembly garden, email Ian Weill, MCS Lower School science teacher, at iweill@mcscommunity.org.