Peace Garden Progress

By Max Grossman

As it was last year, CGIU proved to be fast passed. Without a plan it can easily pass one by. Recognizing this, I went in with a list of people to meet, my pitch memorized, and a strategy to build 51% relationships in which I always offer (help, access to my network, ext.) to my counterpart before asking the same of them.

I have two personal highlights. First, USAID’s Ann Mei Chang gave GW’s geography department a shoutout for supporting USAID’s efforts. Second, I learned that the startup BioChemical Engineering is using drone-captured aerial imagery and remote sensing techniques to reforest the world’s threatened forests. As a to-be geographer, it was re-assuring of my path that the work I am capable of now and that which I hope to do in the future both make real social & environmental impact.

As it relates to the Peace Garden and social entrepreneurship more generally, President Clinton’s (may I say grand-fatherly) words of advice were most relevant to my work. Reading glasses and all, he told all those in the room that our generation (perhaps the first ever) truly has a choice to decide what it is we want to do during our time on earth. We can take a path that addresses humanity’s prevalent challenges and shape a better future, or not. I hope to choose the former.

As for the Peace Garden’s progress, we have finally completed the long awaited, at times seemingly insurmountable goal of building our rain barrel. It took two mini-van trips (one to Home Depot, the other to the Perry School) and a Friday night and Saturday morning pulling out rocks with a post digger, but we have prevailed! In fact, just this week the LFFP students unveiled, took water from, and learned about the importance of the barrel. Future goals include a family night with students and families, and generating our healthy eating resource to give to them.

Perry School Peace Garden: Project Impact

By: Max Grossman

What has been the impact of this project on you personally? On your academic experience? On the community you intend to serve?
With its rain barrel, educational activities, gardening, and cooking demonstrations, my project is inherently multifaceted. This has made a personal impact on me as it has taught me the power of building partnerships when I – neither a master rain barrel installer or gardener – need help achieving project goals. Working with the GW’s Engineers Without Borders chapter and DC Greens has made much of the program areas that I lack experience with possible, and grown the community which the project serves.
The project has also had an academic impact. It has removed the abstraction from the research-based justifications I originally made when justifying the project. Through the project activities, I was able to see the impact it makes myself, rather than just put my faith in published papers. This sort experiential learning is very powerful.
Through the environmental lessons, the Perry School students have been introduced to plants, places, and ideas new to them. For example, it fascinated students that the same sweet potatoes grown on farms surrounding DC are also grown in Taiwan. They have also had the chance to experience the K Street Farm – an open green space they look forward to going back to in the spring.
What is keeping you in this program?
Over the past two years, I’ve come to know and care about many of the children in this program. In that time, it has become increasing evident that gardening and being outside is something they truly enjoy. This program makes our student’s outside time possible, and because of this I seek to continue implementing a meaningful service project.
How is this going to impact your future?
As my first real interaction with community and educational gardening, working on the eco-equity challenge has made it clear that I will seek out similar opportunities in the future.
Describe one moment that was particularly meaningful to you.
In the fall, partner DC Greens gave our students a tour of their K Street Farm. This day was particularly meaningful to me as it generated the sense of discovery I’d hoped would come from the project. Kids struggled trying to say the word cistern, learned the important relationship between bugs and crops, and marveled at the taste of real honey. Capturing these sorts of moments is part of what makes service projects special and I hope to help our students discover more in the future.

Learning from Experience: Why Green Spaces Matter

By: Max Grossman

I remember when I wrote the Perry Peace Garden Project proposal I used two studies to argue the project’s importance. One claimed green space positively affects child development and the other proposed green spaces in poorer urban areas are few.

This argument seems logical enough, but after some reflection, it also appears somewhat hollow.
What does it mean to positively affect child development and why do kids need access to places that do it?’

A month into the program, during which time LFFP’s students have spent ample time in LFFP’s peace garden and afternoons at DC Green’s K Street Farm, I think I’ve nailed down three concrete examples to back my case.

I claim no degree in Child Psychology, however below are the three reasons gardens are constructive:

Gardens allow students to discover:

Discover what you might ask? Worms, how bees make honey, why a fruit is a fruit, how a rain barrel works, what a praying mantis eats, where toothpaste’s mint flavor comes from… the list could go on. What is unique about these questions is that students got to interact with answers. They felt a praying mantis, peered into the rain barrel, and tasted honey. Certainly interfacing with these what they are studying makes kids want to continue asking questions.
Gardens provide students space:

Schools, and LFFP’s youth development program for that matter, are congested environments. Filled with kids, teachers, faculty, their winding hallways and windowless classrooms are overly clutter. Gardens do not face this issue. In this sense, kids can learn in their own space at their own pace. Those that want to explore every plant can, and those that would rather work with only one can too. Peers do not interfere with each others’ experience. Additionally, to kids, gardens are BIG. Add large plants and walkways and programs seem less like activities and more like adventures.

Gardens bring students joy.

I say with confidence that LFFP’s students are happy outside. Some kids hum, others zone in on their digging, most kids laugh and play. In any case, this joy is key for cooperation, inclusion, and dare I say peace!

At any rate, these first few weeks have brought meaning to the proposal I made months ago. With more afternoon garden adventures, and the upcoming rain barrel installation, my list of three will certainly grow.