This summer working at Harlem Grown was a very enjoyable experience for me. My internship ended on August 20th, and since then I have had time to reflect on what I gained from this experience. Working this summer being able to share scientific knowledge and fun with an energetic and engaged group of children has been a pleasure. I learned a lot about communicating information in ways that can be well received by a younger group of people. I also learned a lot about educating in New York City. Something that Harlem Grown’s founder Tony told all of the staff at the beginning of the summer was that the kids are in charge of their summer camp experience. The camp is free for families in the area, and a majority of the children we work with are coming from high needs situations. He also told us that he wanted this summer camp to be a place where campers were allowed to express themselves, and have their thoughts and ideas heard.
Something that I reflected on often during my time working with Harlem Grown was that all of the younger kids that I worked with on a daily basis were incredibly intelligent. They were always answering the questions we posed about farming, science, and art. They were well versed in history and strong readers as I realized going to different museums and libraries with them throughout the summer. These children were all smart and very capable. Another thing that Tony told us about the mission of Harlem Grown was that he wanted that intelligence and optimistic attitude towards learning to always continue even after summer camp was over. Through hearing him talk about some of the challenges campers and their families faced, I was even more dedicated to making sure that they felt like camp was a place where they felt that their voices and opinions were being heard, and where we cared about how they were feeling.
Having this experience made me realize as well a few goals of my own. In the past year, I became much more well read and informed on issues involving economic segregation and the connection to educational opportunity. In one of my courses, I wrote a research paper on school zoning in New York City and the divide in educational opportunity it creates between students of different incomes. This led me to have an interest in pursuing education and understanding more about ways to make educational opportunity the same for all students, regardless of outside circumstances. This internship allowed me to gain knowledge of teaching to students and the impact of educators on students, while also allowing me to encourage students to enjoy STEM activities. This combined my passions for education and science and allowed me to learn and grow in my methods of interacting, teaching, and taking care of campers.
Overall, I am very thankful to have had this opportunity. I hope that this internship is the first of many experiences I will have with teaching, working with children, and experiencing the impact of non-profit organizations. I got the opportunity to work with both an incredible staff and amazing campers this summer, and the impact of this experience will never be lost.
We have definitely had a very full and fun summer at Harlem Grown! Camp is ending in a few days, so the last of our farming and experimenting is wrapping up and we have a busy week this week. The summer was filled with different aspects of knowledge gained by each of the groups. Over the past month, we have expanded a lot of our lessons into fun projects that the campers can take home and share with their parents.
Throughout the summer, we watched our plants from the very first week grow. The campers were very excited when they started sprouting and like to make sure they check on them whenever they return to the farm. They are able to identify the parts of the plant growing, and some of them plan to try growing plants at home after the summer is over.
The oldest group has been working throughout the summer on their multimedia projects that they will be presenting at the end of the summer. Each group was asked to think of a certain image of Harlem Grown that they wanted to present, whether it be a typical day, a day where we visited another farm in the New York area, farm tasks, or anything else like that. They’ve been working on turning their collection of videos and pictures into a project they can present on the last day.
For the farming curriculum one week, the campers were learning about biodiversity. Something that Xana and I tried to do throughout the summer was to tie the lessons we learned on the farm into the lessons we taught in STEM. That week, we did a lesson on biomes. We asked questions, explained the differences in each, and asked students to identify the relationship between climate (defined as the weather in an area due to the amount of rainfall and the temperature) and environment. They drew conclusions that more rainfall leads to a greener biome, but that there are a lot of different conditions in which plants and animals can live. We asked the students, after completing the worksheet on biomes, to draw their own. Our students really enjoyed being able to draw a colorful landscape and many asked questions to make their image more accurate, such as what types of additional plants or animals could be found there.
As a fun activity about the food systems, we had our campers make feeders for the chickens that Harlem Grown keeps at their 134th Street farming location. We asked students to identify the foods we were feeding chickens, (sunbutter, oats, pumpkin seeds, breadcrumbs) and to compare the foods that animals can eat compared to humans. We talked about how this can be related to other animals in different areas and discussed the food that the different types of animals (herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores) needed to survive.
This summer through the Barnard Noyce Teacher Scholars program I am completing an internship at Harlem Grown, an organization that runs urban farms across Harlem and teaches farming and sustainability within the community. Each summer, Harlem Grown runs a summer camp for children that live in nearby neighborhoods from ages 7-14 (roughly entering 2nd-9th grade). On a day to day basis, I work as a counselor for the youngest group, ages 7-9, and teach lessons in farming and growing plants, as well as doing art, cooking, journaling, and other indoor/outdoor activities. In addition to the regular activities of the camp, this summer students are also getting an additional lesson in STEM, which is the focus of my internship.
As a part of our STEM curriculum, we perform experiments, complete projects, and have discussions relating to the different lessons. Our program director gave us the freedom to decide what types of experiments and lessons we wanted to organize for the campers and allowed us to have as much creativity as we wanted in designing our lessons. We have come up with a long list of fun ideas that we plan to use to incorporate scientific knowledge in ways that campers will enjoy.
Our first week, we had a discussion with each group about what specific things plants need to grow. Our campers came up with a long list: nutrients, soil, air, water, sunlight, heat. We also had the opportunity to tie this in with the Harlem Grown curriculum which taught the campers the different parts of the seed. With our list of plant growth requirements in mind, we had each camper plant their own potted plant in a biodegradable pot using compost as soil and lettuce or bean seeds. We then had each camper change one aspect of how the plant was cared for from the standard (the standard being, in sunlight, watered once a day, outside). Campers added different changes, like the frequency with which the plant was watered, whether they wanted it to grow inside, in the greenhouse, or outside, in the sunlight or in the shade. Some campers even added a song they wished for their plant to listen to each day to have it grow!
With the oldest group, we performed the same experiment but added an extra aspect to make things a little more complicated and engaging for them. We had these campers create their pots from origami newspaper boxes, that are able to be planted straight into the ground. All three groups are going to be able to watch the conditions of their plants change throughout the entirety of camp, and we will have a discussion at the end about which conditions helped plants grow and which conditions lessened their growth.
For the second week, we had a discussion with the youngest group about the parts of the plant and the function of each part. We then allowed them to color and fill in worksheets that had them label each part and allowed them to creatively design their own flowers!
For the middle group, we talked about leaves and had a lesson on the functions of photosynthesis and the parts of plant cells responsible for photosynthesis. We finished the lesson with a better understanding of the function of CO2 and oxygen and how they function on a cellular level. We allowed campers to complete leaf rubbing drawings after the lesson.
Going forward, we have a lot more projects to look forward to. We hope to incorporate a video project for the oldest group. We have a lot more work planned in different aspects of biology and chemistry. I am looking forward to learning and experimenting more for the rest of the summer!