Kids Garden Programs “Get Grounded” with New Garden Curriculum

In April, UTC Garden Programs began at the Pearl Street, Memorial, and Ward community gardens, setting the foundation for the coming months. Kids learned about ecosystems, soil, and the planting cycle, and framed the garden community and each person’s role and value in it. UTC Staff, Teen Assistants, VeggieKids and Sprouts worked together to set garden “ground agreement” (guidelines and expectations), prepped beds with compost, and started planting!

Season Overview

Garden Curriculum Overview: each week includes a Sprouts lesson, VeggieKids lesson, and VeggieKids business day activity

This winter UTC program staff collaborated to create a UTC Garden Curriculum specific to our outdoor, neighborhood-based after school programs. Lessons incorporate urban ecology, farming, health, entrepreneurship, and arts, to encourage a new generation of gardeners and community leaders.

UTC Staff use this Garden Curriculum to run seven weekly programs at three garden sites for our Sprouts (ages 5-9) and VeggieKids (ages 10-13). Three Teen Assistants are folded into this system, training with UTC staff, learning to lead activities, and serving as solid role models for younger kids in their neighborhood.


VeggieKids at the Pearl Street Garden work on a lesson planning and mapping their garden beds for the season

On the first program day at the Memorial Garden, Shae, Teen Assistant, knocked on doors inviting new and familiar faces back into the garden. You could feel everyone’s excitement after a long winter to be back outside and for the season to start. After orientation activities, kids spread out into their own space to observe the garden, writing poems/raps about their favorite birds which they shared. Blue birds and robins got shout-outs for their awesome colors, and eagles for a winning (& Philadelphian) spirit!

April (and winter prep) have set a solid groundwork, and gotten everyone excited for the season!



Kids prepare to share bird poems at the Memorial Garden after talking about ecosystems


Jasmine and Memorial Garden VeggieKids experiment making natural dyes

Soil Shake

Soil Week’s cover page

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VeggieKid’s Soil Lesson page 1. (This lesson combines elements from Boston’s Food Project, ‘French Fries & the Food System,’ and Growing Healthy Habits Curriculum).

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VeggieKids Soil Lesson, p. 2

– Karen Bustard, UTC

Ward Winter Cooking Program!

It’s another Monday afternoon and Q, Angel, and I have set up cutting boards and vegetables in the newly renovated basement kitchen of Ward AME church, now ready for our weekly children’s cooking program.


The Ward kitchen!

Today we have a peanut theme to accompany a lesson on George Washington Carver. We are making peanut butter, and peanut bars from one of the 105 peanut recipes Carver published in his bulletin to promote the nitrogen-restoring crop among rural growers. Q works with a few kids to add a small amount of salt, honey, and peanut oil, and they watch as the peanuts turn to a familiar store product in the food processor. The rest of us takes turns cutting apples, celery and bananas. After grinding the peanuts and making the dough for the bars, everyone molds their own shapes, and the snakes, suns, and squares go into the oven.


Shalise already knew we’d be cooking with peanuts when we first picked the kids up from the Martha Washington afterschool program a block away, and Q said cryptically, “we’re making something out of a plant that became popular because of a really famous black farmer dude.”

Image“Oh, peanuts.” She said. “Great, I hate those.” But by the time it comes to eating them she has changed her mind, and is hording the bowl of apples for dipping before Angel nods to her to pass it along, and pay attention to the section of the Carver biography that Preece is reading out loud.

Inventing over 300 products from peanuts— including insulation, antiseptics, and wall board— and teaching rural farmers best growing practices through the mobile Jessup Wagon, Carter embodies the creativity, ingenuity, and connectivity that we admire in urban farmers today!



Kids harvest greens from the 43rd Street Community garden in the fall. Everyone’s excited to return outdoors this spring, and grow some food to cook!

Angel, the block captain on 43rd street and Ward AME member, partners with us to run this program. Her two sons and nephews are joining today, the older insisting that the younger can read the words on the page, to have us be patient. Angel has been instrumental in setting up the two gardens now next to Ward and across the street, and the kids always respond to her energy, sense of humor, and nurturing guidance in the kitchen and the garden!

Harvesting Artists at Memorial Garden (Part 3)

DSC_0213When  growing food or creating art, “creative restrictions don’t go together” says Que McCall, one of UTC’s dedicated Garden Educators, co-coordinator of Memorial Garden’s VeggieKids program for youth 10-13 and a poet himself. This belief in artistic invention without borders shines through in the beautiful poems crafted in a workshop that he and Jasmine Hamilton, co-coordinator of VeggieKids at Memorial, led this fall. After a year of hard work the young leaders of Memorial mused on subjects such as their communities, the landscape, love and bugs in four or five different poetry forms. Dimantes, ciquains, free verse and haiku all provided the platform for VeggieKids to share and highlight the voices and visions of the garden. And as with all artists, their works speak for themselves:

I’m good your good.

I’m bug your bug we all bugs.

I love you. You love you. We in Love.

I’m you. Your me. We are each other.

Bugs is life and life is bugs.

-Bryniah Rucker

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Worm Experiment by Rain Wilson, Veggie Kid


Mother Natures





God’s Creation

-Haneeyah McMillan









-Tiana Grant


Bugs are sweet

bugs are nice

they help us

mostly in our life.

Sting sting Buzz Buzz 

love love

-Naisim Sayers

Addie with the Memorial Garden Program kids

Addie with the Memorial Garden Program kids

– Addie Ansell, UTC Memorial Garden Coordinator

Harvesting Artists at Memorial Garden (Part 2)


“Love” by Anthony Cassel,  Memorial Garden Sprout

That warm day in June seemed far away from the cold Saturday in March when seven Memorial Garden Kids bundled up to travel to the Community Arts Center in Wallingford, PA. Nestled in the woods, the CAC was an exciting and inspiring space to visit, explore a new natural setting and learn from Paul, Bob and Drew, three energetic art instructors. Using a pepper’s curve and the spikes of an artichoke youth created designs that were incorporated into Drew and Bob’s large scale mural design. Over the two days we spent most our time engaged with art creating imprints in clay to design beautiful tiles creating designs with fractals in pinecones, leaves, shells and lace.

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Yassin and Mikai creating slabs of clay

Two weeks later, as the ground had thawed at the Memorial Garden and we planted the first seeds, we returned to the CAC to finish and glaze our tiles and continue exploring the ecosystems nearby. By April the tiles were complete and it was the CAC’s turn to visit our garden and farm, where Memorial Gardener Sprouts worked with volunteers to paint the shed and install their original tiles into a mosaic that brightened has brighten the farm since!

(Part 3, the final installment, to follow!)

– Addie Ansell, UTC Programs Staff

Harvesting Artists at Memorial Garden (Part 1)

“I sing I believe I see my community and I love all I see”

-Naisim, Memorial Garden Sprout

What is beautiful about the inside of an onion? How do patterns grow organically in our garden? What does a cinquain poem have to do with a cicada? These are a few of the questions that youth at the Memorial Garden Kid’s Club explored this year as they investigated art and environment together. Finding inspiration in a bug, a carrot or a friend is a daily occurrence at the garden, and on each day the young gardeners molded words, clay, seeds, soil and water into expressions of their unique visions. From the first warm days of spring to scorching summer afternoons to the blustery fall, art guided Memorial Garden Sprouts and Veggie Kids through their exploration of their garden and their community.

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Seasons Drawing by Emani Morris
Memorial Garden VeggieKid

Dyube is one of the most dedicated VeggieKids and comes weekly to the garden with his two younger brothers in tow. While he often maintains a tough exterior he is an enthusiastic and creative participant in garden activities. So it comes as no surprise that with only an empty water cooler and two hands he transformed an everyday journaling activity into a full blown garden poetry slam. One early summer day when the Juneberries were ripe and the plants in our plots had turned from sprouts to full plants, we gathered after an afternoon of watering and weeding to reflect on the garden. While we were preparing to journal and discussing different types of poems, Dyube shared that he had learned about acrostic poetry in school and taught the other kids how to write their own. Some preferred to write free verse or rhyming poetry but when it came time to share our work, Dyube took to the drums with his brother Lavon and created a beat to accompany each young poet’s words. Under the shade of a tree and the June breeze we listened to words and drum beats blend together as they spilled into the streets and shared with the neighborhood a love and appreciation for their garden.

(Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3!)

– Addie Ansell, UTC Program Staff

Braheem’s Story – Transformed by the Garden


Lily Hughes with Braheem and Zakeena, Pearl Street Sprouts, painting legs for the big caterpillar in preparation of the Harvest Parade.

On Saturday, October 5th, the Urban Tree Connection Sprouts and Veggie Kids Programs took a special trip to Rhiel Farm, an Amish family farm owned by Reuben, rural  farming partner of  Neighborhood Foods. One Sprout, Braheem, was so excited for this trip he could not stop doing flips all morning before the bus came!

Braheem is the “Garden Gnome” of the Conestoga – Pearl Gardens. He has grown up in that garden, cared for it, watched over it and loves every plant and bug there more than any other kid. Two years ago, when I met Braheem he was full of anger and sadness which caused him to act out, be virtually unable to focus on any task, and have difficulty communicating. Now, after cultivating his ability to grow and nurture plants, encouraging his imagination and self confidence, and patiently teaching him ways of calming himself down, Braheem’s six-year-old joy and wonder shines through!

As the bus rolled out of Philadelphia toward Rhiel Farm, it seemed that Braheem and many of the kids from the Conestoga-Pearl Gardens had never left the city before. Braheem and the others exclaimed at every free standing house, the big roads, and when we finally reached the country they shrieked with excitement at corn fields, cows and horses. Braheem started a song that everyone joined in on ” We’re going to the faaaarm!!! oooooo – ooo -oooo!!!”.
Overjoyed at the opportunity to see and interact with a real working vegetable and animal farm, Braheem told me over and over that this was the best trip ever! For Braheem, this trip was not only a fun time, it was the beginning of him understanding his precious Conestoga-Pearl Garden as being a part of a larger world, a small piece of the larger organic and local food movement. He may not articulate this until he is older, but seeing what is possible in terms of growing food, raising animals and living sustainably will only bolster his dreams for what his garden community could become!
At the end of the day, Braheem hobbled from the bus to our garden shed, trying to carry the huge pumpkin he had picked at the farm. It is our daily work at the garden to train the kids to express appreciation, as a simple self-initiated “thank you” from many of the kids is rare. However, on this particular day, Braheem looked up at me with a huge grin and said “Thank you so much Ms. Lily for taking me on this trip, it was the best day!”


– Lily Hughes, UTC’s Community Program Coordinator

Carrot Heads and Outdoor Artists at Memorial Garden Club

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Fall is the time for enjoying our harvest at Memorial Garden Club and learning about how to prepare the land for winter. This November our group of kids took time to try the many different veggies that they planted and grew in the past two months, as well as capturing the fall landscape in drawings.



In the beginning of November we planted rye seeds in an empty bed and learned about how cover crops protect the soil from runoff and restore nutrients as well. Two weeks later the same bed was full of rye grass and ready for a cold winter!

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The beds that we planted were full of lettuce , spinach and carrots. The kids got to try all of them, and spicy mustard greens as well, and everyone took some home to their families.  Many of the carrots were grown close together so they came up as baby carrots-delicious and sweet!

memorialgardenscan1.jpg“Fruit” by Destiny

The group also explored the crab apple tree at the garden and picked lots of the little “apples” which everyone decided looked more like cherries, but wouldn’t taste like them.  While the farm gets chiller in the fall, the Garden Club members still manage to have fun, learn and grow together!

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– Addie Ansell, UTC’s Philly Fellow and Curriculum Development Coordinator

Memorial Garden Club: We’re Buggin’ Out!

The weather was cloudy on Thursday but that didn’t stop the brand new Memorial Garden Club from having fun!   Meeting for our second week of the club, the group went over to the Community Garden beds when we first arrived to check on the lettuce we planted the week before. The plants are appreciating the rainy weather and growing strong! We looked around to see if we could tell what was growing in the other beds, finding onions, mustard greens, and zucchini to name a few! Destiny and Mikai also checked on the watermelons they helped Ms. Alicia transplant last week.

After spending time in the garden we went back to the stage area to talk about bugs in the garden. Building on last week’s activities where we searched the garden for helpful and harmful bugs and insects, this week we had a chance to imagine our own garden critters. Some kids also filled out worksheets to come up with a “scientific” name for their bug and describe its habitat and diet. Check out the colorful and crazy results!

Mikai’s bug was cute enough already, but with a curly tail this little guy is complete!

Ameenah’s bug had big eyes and a colorful feather. Its wild-cherry tail is from one of Memorial Garden’s trees. Destiny made an “Ice Cream Cone Head Bug” with 5 legs and a long pink tongue for grabbing its food.

These imaginative creations drew some real bees to our worksite and inspired a conversation about the way flowers use bright colors to attract good insects and bugs. Ms. Awinda taught that while this is true, flower’s colors are also based on genetics. Afterward, Destiny made a nest of eggs (full of baby Ice Cream Bugs?) and Ameenah made a fancy pot!

Meanwhile, Haneeyah was inspired by slugs in her backyard to create a carnivorous masterpiece. It may look cute but the pink feather is really a trick to attract other bugs that it will eat with its blue fangs. Its habitat is the woods or other places with lots of plants where it can find a tasty snack!

After describing our bug’s habitats and diets, we were all pretty hungry. Mikai, Dvay and Ameenah helped cut up tomatoes and green, red and purple peppers from the farm and we tried them all. While no one was a big fan of raw tomato, we mixed the tomatoes and peppers together to make a make-shift salsa to dip our Cheese-Its in. Ms. Awinda’s horticultural expertise came to the rescue while we debated the age old question: “Tomato: Vegetable or Fruit?!” – turns out the answer is both! Botanically they are fruit, but in cooking it’s considered a vegetable.

After our snack some of the kids who arrived late got to make bugs and the rest of us headed back to the community garden beds to spruce things up before the day was over! We weeded out a bunch of big plants growing in the wood chips, talked about what makes something a “weed” and how important it is to get roots out so they don’t grow back.

Equipped with brand new kid-sized gloves, Destiny won a tug-of-war with a bright red root. She wanted to play pretend that she was the gardener and Ms. Addie was the kid, but to anyone who’s seen her attack stubborn intruder plants it’s clear Destiny is the real deal!

While digging up weeds Ameenah (an aspiring archeologist) started a Memorial Garden Club rock collection. Haneeyah ended the day by having us hold our trowels in our right hands and recite her “Garden Pledge of Allegiance” and we all promised to keep the garden beautiful and protect our plants.

 – Addie Ansell

Peoplehood photos!

The Veggie Kids (and a few monsters) getting ready to march in the 12th Annual Peoplehood Parade


Unlike today, weather was beautiful last Saturday for the Pearl Street Veggie Kids to march in the Peoplehood Parade to the all-day craft, music, and culture festival at Clark Park!

Getting ready to march- Zaakirah the strawberry and Mellisa the corn-on-the-cob


Veggie Kids in the Peoplehood Parade this Sunday!

Veggie Kids working on their costumes at Pearl Street after school programs

We are excited to have the participants of the Pearl Street garden after school program participating in the Spiral Q Peoplehood Parade this Sunday, October 23rd.  The kids will be dressing up as their favorite fruits and vegetables that they grow in the garden.  The parade leaves from the Paul Robeson House at 50th & Walnut Streets at noon, and ends in Clark Park at 45th & Chester Streets.  There will be music, performances, art-making and more at Clark Park until 5PM. Come join us!