The Kinney Community Garden, where we conduct our KIB summer programs, continues to be a delightful teaching and training space. The garden is a beautiful backdrop for the necessary potpourri of learning styles, and it enables us to invite the surrounding community of children and their parents to varied learning activities and events. It serves as a playground for children’s sense of wonder and inquiry, while at the same time providing teachers with opportunities to use subjects including botany, physics and nutrition to build critical thinking skills. It provides a space to teach carpentry and woodworking, organic gardening, awareness of nutrition and good eating, and so much more. Even our youngest students, two- and three-year-olds, are mesmerized by the fabulous Montessori materials we provide in botany, mathematics and geography.
We are constructing a greenhouse or coolhouse which will allow us to produce and nurture food year-round. Without a shelter like this, the garden is limited to only producing food during the summer months. The coolhouse will extend the growing season for our seasonal herbs (sage, thyme and rosemary), which are always in high demand. This structure will also provide storage for garden materials, individual workspaces, and additional space for our educational workshops.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday each year, families from the community, working together with individuals from Newark Community Solutions, volunteer to paint and decorate beautiful gift boxes and bags, which they then fill with fresh collard greens from the garden and stuffing mix, canned vegetables and other Thanksgiving goodies. Instead of merely putting food in the hands of those community members in need, the presentation and the sensitive act of giving and receiving are equally important. The boxes or bags are painted with love and care and presented to others in the spirit of Thanksgiving. We distribute approximately 100 boxes or bags every year, feeding nearly 200 people.
By joining forces with other community gardens, we expand our volunteer base, increase our skill base and training, and support the community’s drive to bring their homemade products to market. Our coolhouse will enable a “food exchange,” where we will share what we grow, as well as what we collect, with community members who can provide something in return. No one will be asked for money; instead they will be asked what they could provide in return. They could offer their time weeding, they could offer their skills to help with construction or maintenance, they could offer their own produce if it’s something we aren’t currently growing. We will also offer our own skills, time and/or expertise to other gardeners if they have fresh, healthy food that we would like to offer. On a more informal level, we have discovered that many of our community members have skills relating to pipefitting, masonry, carpentry, horticulture and landscaping. They are willing to “mentor” their fellow gardeners, and often learn other skills in return. The garden is an inclusive community of learning and sharing.
We continue to provide Financial Literacy presentations and mentor the teenage girls at the Newark Juvenile Justice Center. With Turrell Fund support, we were able to create a Reading Group and purchase books for the participants. We have read Lord of the Flies and To Kill A Mockingbird. The experience is a transformative one for all involved. The participants are respectful of one another, and of the literature. They are “transported” out of their surroundings, and into other worlds. These sessions are marked by in-depth conversations about the plots, characters, themes, and a wide variety of topics of interest to the young girls. We are building a trusting community of inquiry.