PS 135Q, The Bellaire School
Can a garden send a message of love and peace to the world and inspire social engagement? Answering this question was the inspiration for the garden project of the students at the Bellaire School in Queens Village, NY, and made them the winners of our 2017 Carton2Garden contest in the Health and Nutrition category.
The project began with research and study of the works of American artist Robert Indiana, creator of the iconic 1966 “Love” sculpture and painting, in which the word itself became the subject of the art. Says Bellaire teacher Patti Andreolas, who served as team leader for the garden project, “We were inspired by how a simple work of art can have so much meaning and decided our garden should do the same.”
Once the students decided on their basic garden design, a heart with letters spelling out the word “love” surrounded by growing plants in carton pots, they focused on what those plants were to be. Wheatgrass was chosen as the students learned of the health benefits this easy to grow plant offers. They researched the best way to plant the wheatgrass seeds and then soaked the seeds for several days before planting them in pots made from recycled cartons and filled with potting soil. “The growth of the plants was remarkable,” notes Ms. Andreolas. “We measured the cartons and developed a growth chart to keep track.”
The students realized that their rapidly growing plants would need regular watering and they were given the challenge of inventing a drip irrigation system. Teams of students were each given three cartons, a plastic cup, masking tape, and a recycled water bottle. For one class period, the teams worked together to create and test their prototypes. Next each team presented their invention to the class, reflected on how the various designs addressed the problem of water delivery, and finally voted on the device they felt did the best job with the least amount of water, which was then used to maintain their young plants.
The next part of the project was an exploration of the nutritional benefits offered by wheatgrass. Students made wheatgrass shakes using the grass, fruit juice and frozen fruit. Says Ms. Andreolas, “Students were challenged to create their own wheatgrass juice recipe. All ingredients were put in a blender and the kids were able to taste their creations. The ideal moment was when they drank their smoothies and wanted more!”
The culmination of the project came from the students’ desire to extend their love to creatures in need by donating some of their wheatgrass plants to a local animal rescue shelter for their cats to nibble on. This idea came about when the students learned through their research that cats also like to eat wheatgrass and benefit from the nutrition it provides. In summing up the multi-faceted project, Ms. Andreolas says, “Not only was this a fabulous project that impacted our school community with a message; it had also become a service project to help animals in shelters. What a truly wonderful learning experience.” We at KidsGardening heartily concur!