First Bloom in the National Parks of New York Harbor

First Bloom students in the garden at 287 Convent Avenue

Mindi Rambo

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News Release Date: June 26, 2009

Contact: Mindi Rambo, 212-668-2208

Learning is in Bloom in the National Parks in New York City

First Bloom students are digging in around New York City as a garden was created and another tended by the National Park Foundation program held two events in June.

On June 12, they gathered at Castle Clinton National Monument in Battery Park to remove invasive species (a.k.a. pulling weeds), build and paint birdhouses, learn about beneficial insects such as ladybugs, and supplement last year’s effort with additional planting. The students were aided in their efforts by volunteers from Macy’s, a company whose “Turn Over a New Leaf” campaign raised more than $2.5 million dollars for the National Park Foundation to use for programs such as First Bloom.

Then on June 17, the youth gathered again to plant the garden at 287 Convent Avenue in Upper Manhattan – the former site of Hamilton Grange National Memorial. The garden’s design was developed by the First Bloom students in Ms. Torres’ fourth-grade class at PS 153 with the aid of the Horticultural Society of New York (HSNY). Students from Ms. Torres’ class were joined by youth from the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem and the HSNY to add the plants to the site where a brick plaza, a walkway and boulders for sitting were installed in the previous weeks.

Matt Ferris, program director for youth engagement for the National Park Foundation said of the event, “It was truly one of the best we have had in the program. The kids loved it and the garden looks beautiful!”

The children of the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem will maintain the Convent Avenue garden twice a month throughout the summer with the assistance of the Horticultural Society of New York. The horticultural society will continue garden maintenance throughout the year.

In the Fall, a new fourth-grade class from PS 153 will be a part of the First Bloom program. The children will learn about horticulture and the National Park Service. They will participate in the maintenance of the garden at the former site of Hamilton Grange and the planting of a new garden at the new site of Hamilton Grange in Saint Nicholas Park.

Another First Bloom garden can be found in front of the children’s play area on the north side of General Grant National Memorial. This garden was planted on April 27, 2009 in honor of the birthday of Ulysses S. Grant, the president who signed the legislation creating America's first national park -- Yellowstone.

Shirley McKinney, superintendent of Castle Clinton NM, General Grant NM and Hamilton Grange NM, said “We are proud that the National Park Foundation has named our First Bloom program as one of the best in the country. Ranger George Tonkin has done a terrific job working to create a program that takes students from the classroom to the 10 national parks that are here in New York City while ensuring that they get a solid grounding in the science and core lessons of the program.”

First Bloom is a nation-wide program developed by the National Park Foundation to connect urban youth with the outdoors and the national parks through gardens comprising plants native to the area where they live. The students learn about the plants and gardening, design and plant the gardens and then help tend them. In turn, they receive a sense of accomplishment, pride in their neighborhoods and a stake in helping to conserve and protect their national parks.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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