Submitted By: Therese Bellino, Kindergarten Teacher & Member of Morse Cultural Proficiency Team
The Morse Cultural Proficiency Group, in recognition of Woman’s History Month, reached out to Jane Hirshi, Director of CitySprouts, to find out more about it’s founding and mission. We asked Jane how CitySprouts began and she explained that in 2001, as a parent of a Special Start Student at the Fitzgerald School, parents were asked to share any special skills with the classroom. Jane, a small group of parents, teachers and a school principal formed the school garden program. The students explored sensory activities, and learned about food sources and the environment. Activities included, planting, harvesting, and cooking food grown in their school garden.
CitySprouts began as parent engagement and for the first 10 years, the mission was to bring garden based learning to all students in Cambridge. This would support all learning and health goals, social emotional, self-regulation and collaboration. We asked Jane what challenges the program has faced. Jane explained that principals wanted to make sure that it was not an add-on to teacher’s responsibilities, but that garden based learning needed to support curriculum instruction.
All of the the CitySprouts Gardens have a Garden Coordinator that works in concert with Teachers to bring standards based learning from the indoor to the outdoor Garden classroom. We asked what are some important benefits of garden based learning for student growth? Jane explained that garden based learning is exponential and research shows that a student’s familiarity with a place is key to deep learning. (Citing a recent report STEM Starts Early, grounding Science, Technology, Engineering and Math in Early Childhood).
CitySprouts is now in all 12 Cambridge Public Schools and by September 2017 will be in 12 Boston Public Schools. The hope is that the Garden Coordinators will be responsible for two CPSD Schools and two Boston Schools. Jane explained that CPSD funds 1/3 of the cost of CitySprouts, whereas Boston Public School Principals have to provide funding for the program. (Additional funding for CitySprouts comes from donations and grants). Boston is a much larger district, so not all schools have a garden. Support from Principals is essential to the success of the program. Family engagement has come full circle since it’s founding in 2001 and the Garden is supported by families, staff, students and the community. Morse School’s CitySprouts garden will soon be updated and will become more accessible. Please note that our own Morse School Principal Pat Beggy was awarded The Environment and Community Impact Award in 2015.
Please see Our Garden Coordinator Shay Chess and learn about the STEM connection at our Morse School Science Fair in April and read more about City Sprouts at:
Thank you, Jane!