by Siobhan Gleason
Our Mother of Consolation Parish School was recently awarded a Green Warrior Student Grant for $450 from the local organization Green in Chestnut Hill to start a gardening club for the upper grades after their success with the younger grades.
The school’s gardening club was only available for students up to fourth grade, but the grant will soon change that.
“Our younger students learned about healthy eating, nutrition and the environment through hands-on work,” said Colleen Amuso, director of admissions at OMC. “They were responsible, with Dr. Howard Brosius, for planting, tending and maintaining the plants they sold. They saw plant life and biology from the beginning.”
Amuso said members of the OMC Student Council discussed their ideas for the new club in an interview with Amy Edelman, president of Green in Chestnut Hill, or GRinCH. The students want to grow organic plants and use their rehabilitated greenhouse to grow plants through the winter. They also plan to use food scraps as compost to add to their soil.
The older students at OMC already participate in Marketplace, a partnership with Weaver’s Way. They go to Weaver’s Way once every two weeks and learn how to package products, take inventory and run a business. Then the students take some of Weaver’s Way’s products to sell to their classmates. Popular products include fruit juice, dill pickles and puffed snacks. The students want to grow vegetables and herbs to add to the selection of healthy snacks for their classmates.
Amuso said they also liked the idea of adding healthy snacks to the hot lunch program at OMC. The students thought of creating a list or menu of foods that could be available for lunch and sending it home to families. Students could mark which foods they would like to eat and also write down any allergies they might have. Funds raised by the different sales could help fund extra supplies the gardening club would need later on.
Green in Chestnut Hill is an organization created five years ago to raise awareness in Chestnut Hill about environmental issues and fund-raise for outreach and green initiatives. Otherwise known as GRinCH, it has organized many different events, such as “free-cycling” of books and clothes at the garden festival and throughout the year and “Weird Waste Day,” a collection of electronic waste to be recycled.
“My original idea for the organization was to assist fellow business owners in making their businesses more environmentally friendly,” Edelman said. “While I was able to share information and had excellent feedback from other business owners, I found that residents were also interested in the greening of our community.”
One of the missions of GRinCH is to encourage students and schools to develop ideas that will contribute to a greener Chestnut Hill. The Green Warrior Student grant program helps give students the boost they need to make their ideas a reality.
Donations and fund-raising help fuel the Green Warrior Student grant, which applies to any students (grades K-12) in any school in Chestnut Hill, student residents of Chestnut Hill, and Chestnut Hill school clubs. The grant has a maximum amount of $500 and no minimum. Any projects can be considered. Examples include a clean-up day, invited speaker and a recycled art contest.
“The generous citizens of Chestnut Hill and neighboring communities donate money at each of our events that funds our Green Warrior Student Grant program,” Edelman said.
The grant given to OMC requires that the students fill out the application for the grant themselves. Adult help could be provided, but the students in the OMC Student Council, made up of students in grades five to eight were the ones who did the work.
“We are very proud of our students,” Amuso said. “We pushed them to write for the grant, but it was their own work.”
Part of the grant involved answering questions about money usage and the future vision for the club. A few questions asked: Describe the goals of your project. What will the project cost? Who will participate?
The older grades plan to use the money from the grant to buy gardening tools and experiment with organic and inorganic gardening, fertilizer, light and heat to see which method yields the best produce and plants. While their focus is on growing produce to sell to the OMC community, they may widen their customer base in the future.
“Right now we’re focusing on OMC – the parents and the students,” Amuso said. “But later on we may sell flowers to the parish community. Who knows? There are so many possibilities.”