UWS Schools Join Efforts to Beautify Their Neighborhood

by Clara Martinez Turco on June 5, 2010

Students from four Upper West Side private and public schools teamed up on May 24th to beautify the community and take care of trees located on 94th, 96th and 97th streets between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues. The Street Tree Initiative Planting Day was part of Kids Grow New York, The Mandell School’s kindergarten yearlong class community service project. This year it also included students from Manhattan Children’s Center, PS 163 Alfred E. Smith and PS 166.

“The overall goal is to teach children the value of community and that it takes an effort from all of us to beautify the streets,” said Myrna Stuart, Head of the Pre-School division at The Mandell School. “The community effort and reaching out to other schools is what our school is all about. It starts with young children by building that community spirit just within the classrooms and then we expand to our neighborhood.”

During the school year, the kindergarten students studied trees and drew pictures of them. This artwork was put into a calendar that was sold among the families to raise money to provide the participating schools with flowers, soil, watering cans and other supplies necessary to take care of the tree pits. “The children learn from this fundraising experience that the flowers don’t just appear, that there is a process to all of that as well,” said Stuart. Part of the artwork was also displayed on an exhibit at the new building of The Mandell School. Students and families from the other institutions were invited to visit and be a part of the initiative.

From activities like this one, children learn to take care of the community, while working with teachers, parents and their peers, said Lisa Galiano, teacher at PS 163. “We are always in a classroom and is usually all the routines, and this is a nice way to get together, get to know each other and develop community.”

During the event, kids cleaned the tree pits and worked the soil, while teachers explained them the steps to plant the flowers. After this day, the students will be also in charge of taking care of them as Mandell and some of the other schools have established a schedule so the children can water the plants. “We can only hope that other buildings in the neighborhood that we have planted in front of will also take care of the flowers,” said Stuart, as she explained that “it is going to be a little disappointing for the children if they walk to school and those flower haven’t been taken care of” while they were away during the vacations. To outreach to the community and inspire neighbors of the schools, the children have also made brochures explaining how to take care of the tree pits.

But, as parents like Pat Haskeld said, the community is starting to respond. “Mike owns this store (96 Rose Deli & Grocery, located on 96th St) and is happy that the kids are making the neighborhood nicer, he has been helping us. “I think is great that the kids are meeting people in their neighborhood,” said Haskel, whose daughter goes to The Mandell School.

While kids continued to plant flowers and water them, Galiano reminded how children will be proud as they walk to their schools and show their work. “They are going to want to take care of the outside of the school and feel good about it. They did it rather than somebody else,” said the PS 163 teacher.

And many volunteers, like Leighsa King, whose daughter goes to The Mandell School agreed. “It is wonderful what they do for the community and I think my daughter is going to be proud of her hard work.”

About the Reporter: Clara Martinez Turco is a freelance reporter for the NYC Firm Schools Blog.

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