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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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,
and Twitter to get the latest updates.
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
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
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!
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.
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.
In Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, just off of Tenth Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets, is The 52nd Street Project, an after-school arts education organization that teaches kids how to create new work for the theater. On Tuesday afternoons, they offer their Playmaking program for kids ages 9 and 10 to learn about creating characters, conflicts, and dramatizations. At the end of this eight-week program, each child pairs up with an adult dramaturge/director and two professional actors such as Frances McDormand, Mozhan Marnò, Jonathan Groff, Bobby Cannavale, Billy Crudup, Edie Falco, and Nancy Giles. The kids interview their actors then head off to a writing retreat to create an original work, which is then produced free of charge for the general public.
The 52nd Street Project has invited us to join them at their
Five Angels Theater today to enjoy a few of the productions that the most
recent Playmaking group is putting on. We’re excited for the opportunity to see
the shows the children have created from their own imagination, which the
adults have helped bring to life with sets, costumes, lighting, sound, and live
music. Just as the show is about to begin, we notice the Playwright’s Desk on
the corner of the stage. We learn that this is where each kid gets to sit while
their show is being performed.
We thoroughly enjoy the first production, and applause
erupts in the theater as the actors take their bows. They are then joined by
the child, and they all take their bows together in what is truly a magical
moment for everyone.
The Playmaking program is available for kids all the way through
high school with additional opportunities for performing, writing, and
technical design. The 52ndStreet Project tells us that alongside
their theater programs, they offer academic and mentoring programs as well as
an employment program for the teens.
As we wrap up our visit with The 52nd
Street Project, we’re grateful for the opportunity to see these original
productions by such a talented group of kids.