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Community Impact

Sep 22, 2017

Grow It! Cook It! Share It!

Seeding community design education

Hawthorne Youth and Community Center (HYCC), a 2016 grantee, received a grant to support "Grow It! Cook It! Share It!," a program engaging local youth in building and cultivating a community garden adjacent to HYCC. Grow It! Cook It! Share It! provides year-round opportunities for Highland Park's youth to learn hands-on about environmentally sound planning and design through urban gardening.

Grantee's summary of the program

Grow It! Cook It! Share It! engages young people from Roxbury's Highland Park neighborhood in urban gardening, providing them with hands-on opportunities to learn about engineering; environmental sustainability; and the planning, design, and construction process. With the support of experts, participants take leadership over the process of planning, building, and maintaining an urban garden. In 2018, HYCC will offer three eight-week sessions of the program. During the summer, participants will meet five days per week to learn about all aspects of urban gardening and use what they learn to create a thriving garden for their neighborhood. Participants will also plan engaging evening events for community members which showcase the garden and food grown in it. During the three other sessions, participants will meet two days per week, on Saturdays for hands-on instruction and on one weekday evening for a community showcase. Experienced landscapers from Restoring Roots Landscaping Cooperative will both present to participants on the importance of ensuring the garden's design is environmentally conscious design and coach youth on ways to make the garden more sustainable.

Who was the audience and what was the benefit?

Grow It! Cook It! Share It! will engage youth, ages 12-18, from Roxbury's Highland Park and the surrounding communities, in year-round learning experiences around design, engineering, and sustainability which they may otherwise not encounter. Most participants are African-American, Latino, Cape Verdean, Somalian, and multiethnic. The local median income in Roxbury is $35,354, nearly half the Massachusetts state average of $69,160, and youth attending public schools in low-income areas are less likely to be achieving in courses related to engineering, indicating they lack opportunities for engaging learning in this subject at school or elsewhere. In Spring 2016, just 52% of 10th graders in Boston Public Schools scored "proficient or higher" on the Science and Technology section of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), well below the statewide average of 73%. GCS reinforces what participants learn at school about STEM subjects through active learning experiences.

How did you deliver your program to your target audience?

Grow It! Cook It! Share It! elevates young people's awareness and understanding of engineering, construction, and environmental sustainability by enabling them to create an urban garden and green landscaping feature in their community. Urban agriculture allows for the active exploration and understanding of engineering, design, and sustainability through hands-on activities. Young people will plan and build raised beds, plant seasonally appropriate crops, and construct a green landscape feature which complements the center building. Throughout, instructors will stress the importance of environmental sustainability, teaching participants techniques for conserving water, extending the growing season, and composting. This hands-on, practical way of teaching makes engineering and environmental concepts that may seem esoteric in isolation accessible and purposeful to all learners. In addition, through field trips, young people observe a range of professionals and learn firsthand how the design and engineering skills learned in the program make it possible to pursue exciting design-oriented careers in agriculture, landscaping, architecture, and engineering.

Evaluate how well your program met your intended goals.

Throughout 2018, Grow It! Cook It! Share It! will directly benefit up to 40 young people--a significant increase over 2017 made possible by the hiring of a new executive director. Because participants will be encouraged to enroll in multiple sessions, the number of unique participants may be somewhat lower, but the impact of the program on each individual will be greater. We will measure the program's ability to engage participants in learning about engineering, design, and environmental sustainability through surveys of both participants and their parents about the young people's increased interest, engagement, and confidence in science and technology subjects at school. The program will also elevate awareness of design and environmental sustainability concepts among local residents. Participants will share what they have learned about landscape design with community members at weekly gatherings, and community members will see firsthand the transformative potential of environmentally conscious design as young people create a thriving garden near the center building.?

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