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Mayor Helps Plant CPS' 100th 'Learning Garden' at Peirce School

By Adeshina Emmanuel | December 7, 2013 9:25am
 Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited Andersonville Friday to commemorate the garden installation.
Mayor Helps Plant CPS' 100th 'Learning Garden' at Pierce School
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ANDERSONVILLE — Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined students at Helen C. Peirce Elementary School Friday to install Chicago Public Schools' 100th "Learning Garden."

In 2012, the mayor pledged his commitment to working with a nonprofit organization, the Kitchen Community, to put 100 gardens in public schools across Chicago, a $1 million effort funded by funding left over from the NATO summit and Chicago philanthropists.

The initiative was aimed at instilling healthy eating habits, countering trends of childhood diabetes and obesity, while also bolstering academic performance with the opportunity for garden-based nutrition and science education.

Peirce held an assembly and ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by the mayor and Kitchen Community Executive Director Kimbal Musk.

Andrew Lajom, an 11-year-old sixth-grade student chosen to speak about the garden, said the garden would "provide many fruits and vegetables for all students at Peirce," and "give us another opportunity to have healthy choices as students."

The garden was designed by the kitchen community and consists of several food-grade polyethylene planting beds with bench seating, shade structures and internal irrigation near the school's field and playground area.

Lajom said it would allow students to take soil samples to analyze in earth science classes.

"We look forward to getting our hands dirty in the garden," he said.

Speaking to an auditorium full of students excited to see the mayor in person, Emanuel said the garden would help "ensure that our children have a brighter, healthier future."

Students spent the morning before the mayor's afternoon appearance placing mulch on top of soil, receiving seed packets and learning about the planning that goes into a successful garden.

After the mayor, Peirce Principal Nancy Mendez, Musk and Lajom cut a ribbon to commemorate the garden, a choir of sixth-graders sang "How to Plant a Seed." Then Emanuel joined students outside at the garden where they spread more mulch over the soil.

The kids will really be able to get their hands dirty in the spring, when they will be able to grow a broader array of fruits and vegetables.

Musk touted research showing kids involved in garden-based education ate more fruit and veggies and scored higher on science tests.

Musk said about 60,000 kids in CPS now have access to learning gardens.

"We've changed the idea of a school garden from something that is temporary to something that is permanent. That learning garden that you have on your playground will survive for decades," Musk told students.