Community, Features, Impact

BU students start sustainable garden initiative to teach environmentalism to elementary school children

The Urban Garden Initiative, an international nonprofit organization aimed at encouraging sustainability through gardening, is working with three local Boston elementary schools to teach six to eight-week long programs that are designed for the kids through the Boston chapter.

Fenway Victory Gardens - public garden
The Fenway Victory Gardens, a public garden in Boston. The Boston chapter of The Urban Garden Initiative will be working with three local elementary schools on an initiative which will include the creation of a garden at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School. SYDNEY ROTH/ DFP STAFF

Halle Cooper, TUGI’s Boston chapter director and current senior in the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston University, applied to start the chapter last spring.

“There’s so many different ways that you can go about environmentalism,” Cooper said. “I think just creating another outlet for that is always a good thing, especially on a college campus where we have the energy and the resources and the time.”

One effort that will begin after spring break is the creation of a garden at The Josiah Quincy Elementary School, according to the TUGI Boston’s website.

“The idea is for it to be as hands-on and engaging and curiosity-seeking as possible,” Cooper said. “We don’t want it to feel as much like school and more like something that’s going to get the kids having fun and being engaged in the content.”

Sophia Tigges, a first year PhD student in the Department of Earth and Environment, is the garden director/coordinator for TUGI. Tiggers got involved with TUGI because of an urban farm associated with their school district growing up, which they described as a “formative experience.”

“I know it was important for me when I was a student, so I hope to be able to facilitate that experience for others,” Tigges said.

Tigges said they look forward to reemersing themself into a “garden space” which they haven’t been a part of for a while.

“I’m just excited to plant some plants and see them grow,” Tigges said. “It sounds really cheesy, but being able to just do that together with a lot of people as a collective effort is very beautiful.”

Annika Chun, social media director of TUGI and a junior in CAS, focused on the opportunity to “go into the classroom.” Chun, who has considered a career as a teacher, described it as the “perfect merger” of her passion for education and her interest in environmental science.

“It’s going to be really fun for the students and also for us to learn what it’s like to work with them and teach them about the garden,” Chun said.

Chun said she plans to stay involved with TUGI next year and looks forward to growth of the club’s “capacities” and new membership.

“There’s a lot of people who have really brilliant ideas who come to our meetings and there’s so much possibility,” Chun said.

So far, Cooper has focused most of her outreach efforts at BU, but she is very open to partnership with other local universities and organizations as the Boston chapter grows.

“There’s just so many outlets that you can go through, whether it’s art or writing or working with kids or science, ” Cooper said. “There’s something for everybody.”

Chun said she was looking forward to being part of a group that teaches young children.

“I really encourage people to continue to look out for ways that they can educate youth about the environment,” Chun said. “I feel like it’s something that can be nurtured at a really young age, and it’s really exciting to be a part of that.”


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