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Urban Programs

Garden Mosaics Project

Educators seeking innovative ways to prompt farmers, ranchers, and other groups to adopt more sustainable production approaches might consider the participatory model, tested to great effect by NIFA Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education (SARE)-funded Cornell researchers who worked with groups of gardeners in six Northeast communities. Their Garden Mosaics project engaged both adult gardeners and neighborhood youths, who worked together on extension-led projects with a truly local focus.

Under the guidance of Cornell-trained extension educators, kids in Baltimore, MD; Allentown, and Philadelphia, PA; and New York City, Rochester, and Buffalo, NY, paired with adult gardeners to document the history, makeup, planting practices, and soil quality of gardens in their communities. They tested research techniques, but children born and raised in cities also learned more about gardening. And, in documenting garden histories and unusual plants, they picked up successful interviewing and communication skills along with their green thumbs. Many of the youths—aged 9 to 16—blossomed themselves. There were some disinterested kids who didn't choose the project and, at the beginning, wouldn't look anyone in the eye. By the end, they acted like an expert at the county fair.

Cornell University-Garden Mosaics project targets the South Bronx and builds on successful pilot implementation in Morrisania, the Bronx, and Harlem, Manhattan. The goal of Garden Mosaics is to create an informal science educational program in community gardens, through which youth, educators, and adult gardeners conduct investigations of food-growing practices drawn from a diversity of cultures and explore the science principles underlying these practices. In inner-city communities where space is limited, community gardens make important contributions to urban agriculture.


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