On June 24th, Foothold Technology spent the day volunteering at PS 25 Eubie Blake School in Brooklyn. The enthusiastic team revived the school’s garden area by clearing weeds, building raised beds, and constructing benches for an outdoor classroom. We spoke to Founder and Chief Marketing Officer Nick Scharlatt about his experience.
How did you first get involved with GrowNYC?
I first heard about GrowNYC in 2007, and by 2008 I had joined the Board! I grew up in the city, just a few blocks from a recycling plant and a Greenmarket, so the idea of being involved and supporting GrowNYC’s work appealed to me.
Why did you choose a school garden as a volunteer opportunity for your team?
Grow to Learn is among my favorite GrowNYC programs. It offers what I call a “big win from a small age” – a chance to have a significant and long-lasting effect on kids, starting when they are young. A work day in a school garden is also an opportunity to get a lot done! If you start out with a rough plan, big overhaul becomes possible with a team of volunteers. We can get the job done!
How did your team react to the idea of a work day in a school garden?
When I made the announcement to my team, people were really excited – except for one volunteer who had nightmarish flashbacks to weeding as a kid in his family’s garden! Grow to Learn made working at a school garden totally “turn key”: the problem was there, the equipment was there, and we were the solution.
What were some of your favorite moments from the work day?
There was a lot of cross-team collaboration, so people who don’t necessarily ever work together were getting deep into the roots together – literally! People who didn’t really know each other wound up working together for hours, trying to pull out a root stump, or building beds together.
What do you think were the benefits of the work day for your team? The school?
The team as a whole really got behind the project. As we were seeing how much we got done, we felt the satisfaction of the job well done. And, talking to the staff and community members at the school, it was clear that, no matter how much of the school is involved, it sometimes feels like there’s never enough resources. The Janitor said the job would have taken him six months alone, so it felt important to support school gardens by bringing resources, and so much human power, to tackle something and make a big impact there.
Why would you encourage others to donate to Grow to Learn?
Every kid should experience the kind of space we were able to help build. It shouldn’t be that only some students get to experience the variety of life experiences, curriculum, and outdoors that a school garden offers. Grow to Learn gives kids who don’t have many opportunities to leave the city or get a taste of the outdoors a way to learn through nature. All of a sudden, in front of everyone’s noses, there’s this amazing school resource that we could help make usable. There’s a satisfaction for everyone who supports school gardens in knowing that with a few hours or few dollars you can change the way a whole school relates to the outdoors.