A Summer of Urban Gardening and Design

by Carolyn Coulter and Delanie McCoy

Carolyn and Delanie at the Collins Academy Schuler office
"Through the Schuler Scholar Program, we can say that we have had the best opportunities ever." - Carolyn Coulter

This summer Carolyn Coulter, Levelle Arnold, and Delanie McCoy (class of 2016) worked for After School Matters with Urban Garden and Designers.  We were made aware of this program by the Collins Schuler Staff, who also helped us apply to this partner apprenticeship between The Green Youth Farm, the Chicago Botanic Gardens, and After School Matters.

In this apprenticeship, we learned the true definition of urban gardening by learning about what it takes to grow a sustainable garden of edible plants, flowers, and vegetables using only natural products in an urban setting.  Part of our education was done through visits to places like the Chicago Botanic Gardens, The Plant, Uncommon Grounds, and Chicago Center for Technology.  At these places, we were taught about the different methods of growing crops organically.  A few of the specific methods we learned were crop partnering, which is the practice of growing specific crops together that are known to grow well together, and the practice of using organic dish-washing liquid to control pests.   

Using the methods and techniques we learned from visiting these other gardens and sustainable sites, we were able to grow our own tomatoes, kale, stevia, mint, lavender, marigolds and more. We then were able to take the crops we grew and use them to make our own salsas, salads, and fruit salads which were very good.

While working with Urban Garden and Designers we also had the opportunity to learn about garden design.  We actually designed a rooftop garden for Gallery 37, an arts center located in downtown Chicago, using many of the things that we had noticed about the designs of the gardens we visited as inspiration. There were four design teams with four members in each team. Each member of every team was responsible for a design element for their rooftop design. This gave each member a chance to put their own style and personality into the team design. It really made each design stand out from one another. We spent seven weeks designing, learning, and growing and at the end of seven weeks we had the opportunity to present our design ideas to the donors of this project, who will choose the winning design to build.

During this experience we learned that we could find something as small as gardening enjoyable.  Getting this opportunity to work with other high school kids from around the city has been a great experience; we really enjoyed learning, experiencing new things and meeting new friends.
We look forward to the fall season of the ASM Urban Garden Scientists and Designers! We haven’t heard which team design has won yet, but regardless, we wouldn’t change anything about our summer.

Carolyn Coulter and Delanie McCoy are members of the Collins Academy High School Class of 2016.


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