By Mimi DelGizzi
Student Group Spotlight
In the heart of Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood, a group of third-grade students gather on the rooftop of Josiah Quincy Elementary School. Some cover their noses with the sleeves of their coats. “It smells weird,” one exclaims, while others peer enthusiastically into a box-turned-raised bed filled with rich, dark soil. First-year AFE students, Meghan Lehnerd and Nelly Czajkowski, hold up and point out the different parts of a pea seedling as the students call out features they can identify– “stem!” “roots!” “leaves!” The group looks at the tiny plant before Lehnerd and Czajkowski drop it into a small hole in the mound of soil, urging the students to pat the seedling into place.
First-year students Meg Keegan and Zoe Schweitzer lead another group of Quincy students in a game called “Predators and Prey,” a spin-off of “Sharks and Minnow.” Students run around chasing each other, each playing the part of a “predator” and “prey.” Students have fabric “tails” that, once pulled off by a “predator,” renders them to the sidelines. A third group of students gathers around Ms. Sheung, their homeroom teacher, as she explains the 5-7-5 syllable pattern of haiku poetry, preparing the students to brainstorm their own nature-inspired poems. The groups have convened on the roof of Josiah Quincy Elementary School in Chinatown where the school’s rooftop garden and a play area is located. The elementary school students are taking part in lessons developed by the Quincy School Garden Project, a Friedman student group started in 2008 that partners Friedman students with classrooms in the Josiah Quincy Elementary School only a few blocks away from campus on Washington Street. The purpose of the QSGP is to engage these young students in eating and living in a healthy way, encouraging in them a sense of appreciation for their surrounding environment.
This year, Friedman volunteers led the students in lessons about parts of a plant and parts of a flower, decomposition, pollination, and other garden- and agriculture-based concepts. “It’s so…fair!” one of the students pointed out after learning about the life cycle of plants and animals. Throughout the combined six weeks of lessons, the students dissect a flower, count the number of seeds inside a tomato, watch worms slither across their desks, and sing songs about decomposition.
“Working with the kids is so much fun. From week to week, the students remember so much of what we are teaching them. It’s clear they’re learning about where food comes from – farm to fork,” adds Lehnerd, one of the group’s organizers for the upcoming fall semester.
The purpose of the Quincy School Garden Project is to cultivate an appreciation of their environment in these young students and help them gain insight into where their food comes from as well as what goes into growing that food. Each lesson takes a hands-on approach, encouraging the children to learn about gardening in an urban- (and concrete) based setting. The last lesson of the year is the most hands-on, showcasing the school’s rooftop garden.
“We’ve planted peppers in the garden, cucumbers, cabbage, and lots of other vegetables over the years. The students love to watch the vegetables get bigger and bigger as the weeks go by,” notes Lai Lai Sheung, the garden’s creator and third grade teacher at the Quincy School.
“Working with the kids is so much fun. From week to week, the students remember so much of what we are teaching them. It’s clear they’re learning about where food comes from – farm to fork,” adds Meghan Lehnerd, one of the group’s organizers for the upcoming fall semester.
Michelina (Mimi) DelGizzi is a first-year MS/MPH student.