New school gardens dedicated

June 12, 2012

As the school year comes to a close, Openlands and its partners celebrated newly constructed school gardens with garden dedications at 10 Chicago Public Schools this late spring. The dedications were attended by students, parents, teachers, local government officials, Chicago's "First Lady" Amy Rule, and Openlands' staff, board members and generous supporters. Each dedication was unique to the school with the students providing entertainment, such as dances by parents and students at Nathan Davis Elementary in the Brighton Park neighborhood.

At these dedications, students and administrators alike talked about their experiences in growing their gardens – from design and concept to organizing a watering schedule. All of the gardens include an artistic element. At Lincoln Park High School, the high school art club partnered with artist Keila Smith Upton of Songhay Studios to make a colorful tile mosaic, comprising 25,000 tiles, to symbolize Chicago and their school. At Nathan Davis Elementary, students partnered with the National Museum of Mexican Art to also design a tile mosaic to inspire the students in their learning. "Schools are the heart of our Chicago neighborhoods," said Openlands President and CEO Jerry Adelmann at one of the ceremonies. "Transforming what once was an asphalt jungle into a place of green and a place of community truly achieves Openlands' mission to connect people with nature."

Openlands' Building School Gardens program helps engage students in not only greening their school grounds but providing vital connections between children and nature. The gardens are woven into the classroom curriculum in a variety of subjects. Funding for materials and installation are primarily provided by the City of Chicago's Open Space Impact Fees, and BMO Harris Bank is the Principal Sponsor of the program. "BMO Harris Bank has a commitment to green at all levels," said Wendy Raymer, Vice President of Community Affairs at BMO Harris Bank. "We love our partnership with Openlands because they make it easy to be green."

One of only a few like it in the country, Openlands' Building School Gardens program started in 2006 and has since installed 47 school gardens in Chicago. Nine more gardens are in the planning phase. The program aims to transform school campuses from concrete deserts to green open spaces – free for everyone to enjoy. Additionally, it aims to develop a curriculum connection in the classroom to the garden, utilize art as a part of the garden and encourage student involvement at as many levels as possible.

Openlands thanks all of its partners, including BMO Harris Bank, the City of Chicago, the Winnetka Garden Club, the Chicago Public Schools, Culliton Quinn Landscape Architecture WorkshopChristy Webber Landscapes and The Kitchen [community]. Openlands also thanks Peoples Gas and Polk Bros Foundationfor their support of Green Teacher Network, which provides the teacher training for the school gardens, critical to ensuring long-term success of these projects.

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