“You know how bees get together in a hive and it gets warmer? It’s the same idea with flowers,” explains sixth-grader Jaylen Felder, pointing out the thriving container garden on the front steps of Friendship Academy of Science and Technology, 801 S. Highland Ave.
Felder notes that the fragile flowers must be planted close together, but not so close that the roots cross.
FAST students will be learning much more about planting, plants and the environment over the coming weeks, months and years.
“This was basically a pilot,” explains grade 6 science teacher Rennie Watson, who is also the garden manager. “Can we start and sustain a container garden? Now that we’re able to do this, we can do a bigger garden.”
Much bigger. At the time of this writing, 7,000 square feet of asphalt behind the school may already be ripe for planting.
The container garden—a garden in containers rather than the ground—was only the beginning for the “Green Cheetahs,” an extracurricular group at FAST focusing on horticulture and the environment. The Green Cheetahs were started with a grant from the Baltimore Office of Sustainability.
A $30,000 grant from the Chesapeake Bay trust will fund the asphalt removal and first plantings of the larger garden, and Blue Water Baltimore has also donated and is managing the garden’s launch.
Watson said that students’ enthusiasm toward the container garden paved the way for the bigger garden.
“We’ve learned that, yes, we have a lot of kids very excited to be planting,” she says.
“I like gardening because it helps the earth and it gives us air to breathe, too,” says Destiny Davis, also a sixth-grader.
Her favorite plant is the sunflower, “because it smells so delightful.”
Davis and Felder are two of the most committed Green Cheetahs.
“I think it’s important because people need to know what we’re doing for the earth,” says Felder, who is known to author a comic strip with the main character “Ecoman.”
Students submitted their own plans for the garden, and Blue Water Baltimore then boiled them down to a “professionally designed landscape mark-up of the garden,” says Watson.
“It was really a big school-and-community process,” she adds.
Prior to finalizing plans, the school sought buy in from the Canton Community Association and the Southeast CDC, both of whom reacted very favorably to the idea, she adds.
“We’ve gotten really good feedback,” says Watson. “People actually want to be community gardeners and help the kids.”
While Watson shows the large expanse of asphalt that will become dirt and plants, Felder and Davis run around and pick up spare pieces of trash. Both say that they want to raise public enthusiasm and knowledge of gardening and creating green space.
“I think it’s important because people need to know what we’re doing for the earth,” says Felder. “Stop always polluting the earth; save it because we live on it.”
“I think everybody should know they can get involved to help the earth,” said Davis, “not just for us, but for everybody.”
by Erik Zygmont