Category: Road Trip

Visiting CT Schoolyards

Today we’ve been invited to Brennan Rogers School in New Haven, Connecticut, to participate in their Outdoor Day, which is organized and run by the CT Schoolyards Program at Common Ground.

When we arrive, we are greeted by several eager third and fourth graders as well as Schoolyards Program Manager Suzannah Holsenbeck and Schoolyards Program Coordinator Kendra Dawsey. They’re all ready to begin their day of fun and learning outside, and we’re excited to be joining them.

Suzannah and Kendra lead us to the school’s garden beds, where several students and teachers have already begun working. We spend the morning gardening before taking a break for lunch, which is a kale salad that the third and fourth graders have helped harvest and prepare.

As we enjoy the fresh food, Suzannah and Kendra tell us more about the CT Schoolyards Program. They work with 19 New Haven schools to plant garden beds and educate students about the importance of healthy living. Recently, they taught three special needs classes how to plant vegetables in handicap accessible garden beds at East Rock School. They also just finished installing three new garden beds and a huge insect hotel with all the kindergarten through eighth graders at Bishop Woods School.

As we wrap up a productive day at Brennan Rogers School, Suzannah and Kendra are already thinking about their next Outdoor Day, and we know the next group of students will have just as much fun as we did.

An Edible Schoolyard Grows in Brooklyn

Our next journey begins with the sights of tall rows of corn, beans, and squash which lead the way to seemingly endless raised beds of mixed greens, vegetables, fruit trees, and herbs like molokhia and basil. We hear the clucking and chattering of chickens in a coop. You might think you are in America’s Great Plains, or on a small rural farm in an unpopulated area, but you’d be surprised to know we are making our way through Gravesend, Brooklyn near Coney Island to Public School 216.

The flourishing garden we find ourselves in used to be a cement parking lot until Edible Schoolyard NYC transformed the area into a half-acre organic garden. Students learn to grow and harvest around 160 different types of fruits, grains, herbs, and vegetables.

We’re met by Edible Schoolyard NYC’s Executive Director Kate Brashares, and she shows us around the garden, greenhouse, and the outdoor classroom. It’s the perfect setup for students to get a hands-on gardening and cooking education.

Kate tells us that Gravesend was a natural choice for establishing Edible Schoolyard NYC’s inaugural Demonstration School because the neighborhood has the third lowest percentage of open green space in Brooklyn. Today, P.S. 216 has become a model for edible education and serves as Edible Schoolyard NYC’s hub for developing new curriculum and sharing best practices with other educators.

Through support from Newman’s Own Foundation, Edible Schoolyard NYC continues to expand and refine their Demonstration Schools model to benefit all of its programs, and by extension, students, families, and communities throughout NYC. We’re proud to work with an organization that’s making a difference for tens of thousands of students.

Let’s Grow Healthy with the Resolution Project

We’re journeying into the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles to Canoga Park, a neighborhood classified as a food desert. Our destination is a community garden run by Frida Endinjok and her team at Let’s Grow Healthy, who have partnered with the program Champions for Change to build 18 community gardens so far. Let’s Grow Healthy fosters lifelong healthy eating habits for children through hands-on learning opportunities.

Frida’s program has been around since 2016, when she pitched her idea at The Resolution Project’s Social Venture Challenge, a competition that gives college-age social entrepreneurs the chance to compete for Fellowships that provide seed funding, mentorship, and access to a network of global advisory resources. Frida won a Fellowship and soon enough, Let’s Grow Healthy was established; since then, the program has taught gardening and nutrition to more than 1,300 children.

As we arrive, we find Frida in the garden teaching a group of local children about proper nutrition. When the kids head off to help water the plants, we take a tour around the garden with Frida, and she tells us a little more about Let’s Grow Healthy.

Frida says, “The most amazing part of working on this venture is knowing that I have planted the seed of health in every single child. I am amazed by watching them grow while their garden vegetables grow.”

Meet Mary at CET Public Television

We’ve arrived in the Buckeye State, and we’re on our way to Cincinnati for a stop at the CET Public Television, Cincinnati’s PBS station, where we will be meeting Executive Producer Mark Lammers and Learning Services Manager Jason Dennison. CET was established in the 1950s with the purpose of sharing educational programming with the Greater Cincinnati area. Now, over 60 years later, CET continues to positively impact millions of Ohio residents through programming, workshops, volunteer efforts, and community engagement.

After more two years with the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab program, Mary Williams is pretty comfortable at CET Public Television.

We drive down Central Parkway, pull up to a large brick office building across the street from the Cincinnati Music Hall, park in the garage underneath, and make our way inside CET’s headquarters. We meet Mark and Jason, who take us on a tour of the building. Along the way, we also run into Mary Williams, who has stopped by in between her film classes at the University of Cincinnati where she is a first-year student.

Mark and Jason are excited to see Mary, so we all sit down to learn more about her story. Mary tells us that she first became involved with CET when she was in 10th grade at Hughes STEM High School (part of Cincinnati Public Schools). She signed up for the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs program so she could pursue her passion for storytelling. The program gave her the opportunity to create a few videos about issues in Cincinnati, and some of her stories were posted to the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs website.

Mary Williams gets ready for a remote interview with Jacob Knorr, a medical student in Cleveland, about EnableUC, a club he helped found while an undergrad at the University of Cincinnati. EnableUC is a student-run, a non-profit, open-source, prosthetic and assistive device incubator that utilizes 3D printing to bridge the gap between engineering and medicine.

Fueled by what she learned in the Lab and eager to continue reporting, Mary collaborated with Mark and Jason on an intensive and touching local video project. All of Mary’s hard work paid off when PBS NewsHour broadcast her story, How a 3-D printed hand gave this girl the gift of play, this past September.

We enjoyed meeting Mary and hearing about her journey as a public television reporter. We look forward to seeing everything she will accomplish in college and beyond.

Newman’s Own Foundation’s yearlong challenge grant was created to encourage support for CET so that other students can also have the opportunity to make a positive impact through the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs and other programs throughout the Greater Cincinnati region.

New Haven Farms: A Recipe for Wellness

Tonight we’re making our way to New Haven, Connecticut, for a visit to New Haven Farms—an organization that takes underutilized spaces around the city and transforms them into organic farms. We’re particularly excited to be joining them for their Farm-Based Wellness Program (FBWP).

We arrive at check-in and are greeted by the Community Health Ambassadors. These are graduates of the FBWP who are now sharing their knowledge with current program participants. The Ambassadors give us a quick overview of the program. We learn that it runs from May to October, and each week includes nutrition and gardening education as well as two hours of hands-on cooking. Individuals who participate in the program are low-income adults who have been referred by their healthcare providers because of their risk for diet-related disease. 

The night kicks off with a weekly weigh-in, followed by a survey of each participant’s vegetable and fruit intake. We get to move around a little with a quick Zumba session. We then learn about the benefits of proper nutrition and even receive a mini gardening lesson. Finally, we wrap up with a cooking demonstration, and then the group gathers to share a healthy meal and celebrate another successful week in the Farm-Based Wellness Program.

At the end of the night, everyone is sent home with a week’s worth of fresh produce grown on one of the seven urban farm sites in New Haven. We head off with full stomachs, a bit of nutritional knowledge, and a basket of fresh fruits and veggies to make healthy, delicious meals at home. Thank you, New Haven Farms and FBWP, for letting us join you!

Next Stop: The Big Apple!

We hopped on one of the world’s only commuter aerial trams and got off on a small island in the East River named Roosevelt Island. Our destination is Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park, a memorial to our 32nd president and his vision for a more just and equitable world based on four universal liberties: freedom of speech & expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Free and open to the public, the park welcomes visitors from around the world, including architecture and design enthusiasts, thousands of New York City (NYC) students, and those looking for a little tranquility amid the bustle of this busy city.

Four Freedoms Park
Credit to Paul Warchol

We were lucky enough to visit while Four Freedoms Park Conservancy, the nonprofit that operates and maintains the park, was running its annual intergenerational documentary program. The program invites rising high school juniors to work with the conservancy’s education staff to produce social media content and a short documentary film about the four freedoms and the experiences of elders who lived through the Roosevelt administration.

Credit to Jason Wang

We chatted with three students about why learning from the past is so important and what the four freedoms mean to each of them, but it’s best if we let them tell you themselves; check out their short documentary film here.

Credit to Josie Maszk Adkins

We had a great visit to the Memorial and encourage those in NYC to check out the space for themselves. Visit their website to learn more about their programs and events, and follow along on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to get the latest updates.

The Power of Public Media

If you head due south on Highway 57 out of Chicago, and drive a couple of hours through vast fields of corn and soybeans, you’ll end up in Urbana-Champaign, vibrant home to the flagship campus of the University of Illinois. Illinois Public Media lives on campus, providing access to public radio, television, and digital content – including PBS/NPR programs as well as locally-produced work – to residents throughout the state of Illinois, with its primary audience living in the “belt” stretching across the widest part of the state.


Illinois Newsroom reporter Lee V. Gaines listens during an interview at Illinois Public Media’s studios.

Illinois Public Media works tirelessly to serve its many audiences. News and public affairs, especially in these times, are a priority; the organization’s powerful local and statewide newsrooms (the latter, Illinois Newsroom, is a partnership involving other public media organizations in Illinois, and is anchored at Illinois Public Media) and talk shows like The 21st provide thoughtful, comprehensive coverage and in-depth analysis of news affecting state residents. However, it’s important (and sometimes a relief) to balance this reporting of the news with entertainment and lifestyle programming designed purely to inspire audiences. Television shows like Mid-American Gardener (now also a podcast) encourage Illinoisans to get outside and enjoy their local environments. Webseries like Classical:BTSspotlight regional classical musicians and practitioners while reminding viewers of our classical FM station. And these are just two examples!

Illinois Public Media’s Mid-American Gardener crew gathering footage in a local viewer’s garden for the program’s “Other People’s Gardens” segment.

Audiences grow in response to meaningful content, presented respectfully. But in public media, some of that growth must translate into financial support. Public media has always been financially supported in large part by its generous viewers and listeners, all of whom are “paying it forward” by helping provide a service that’s available to everyone.

Composer and harpist Julia Kay Jamieson was one of six artists profiled in Series 1 of Illinois Public Media’s Classical:BTS webseries.

Paul Newman was a big believer in the power of public media. Newman’s Own Foundation has helped pave the way for stations like Illinois Public Media by helping our membership team accelerate our stations’ reach into all of our communities via matching gifts, which incentivize new members to step up and have their gift to Illinois Public Media matched by Newman’s Own Foundation. Sometimes, it’s just the push new members need, and this support has made all the difference as we continue the work – and the privilege – of providing the news… and inspiring an informed and engaged public.