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Youth building green communities

Marc Lefkowitz  |  04/14/11 @ 4:19pm

How are kids today engaging in green community building?

Beachwood High School's marketing class hosts its fifth Green Dream showcase with 100 green and wellness exhibitors this Friday. Proceeds in the past were used to build a green classroom. The students run the whole thing as if it were a business.

Local food is also a huge driver of youth green activities. With 42.8% of children in Cleveland schools overweight, it's critically important that market and community gardens are starting to sprout up around Cleveland with the help of young men and women. Some notable examples:

Garden Boyz in Central (pictured)

Tremont Urban Food System- A group of young men who garden in Tremont under the guidance of Nancy DiAlesandro of Merrick House

ReImagine a Greater Cleveland pilot projects involving youth:

Devils Back Bone / San Diego Home School Market Garden

Miles Park Sunflower garden and education program

Peace Gardens

Helping Stone Community Development Corporation youth garden

Watterson Lake School Garden-Detroit-Shoreway

Willow Elementary School Community Garden-Slavic Village

Every summer, United Way's Youth Opportunities Unlimited finds creative jobs for Cleveland area kids. In recent years, Y.O.U kids (pictured) have built rain barrels for city residents and planted rain gardens. (Reportedly, budget cuts will reduce the number of Y.O.U summer jobs this year from 3,000 to 500. With 100 already committed to Cleveland's rain barrel program, only 400 positions will be available for other greening projects, well short of the need).

In Cleveland schools:

Near Saint Martin De Porres High School in the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood, art / environmental teacher Michelle Brickner led students in converting a vacant lot into a garden. Brickner had the parcel rezoned as urban garden to protect it from future development, and integrates gardening into the school in a variety of ways.

Michele DeBock, a teacher at Watterson Lake Elementary School in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood led an effort to set up a school garden last fall. DeBock, a resident of Detroit-Shoreway, helped secure funding through ReImagining.

Started by Emmett Keller, Science Department Chair before he was laid off last year, Garrett Morgan Cleveland School of Science has environmentally driven interdisciplinary projects around vermicomposting, gardening, recycling and environmental justice through art.

Inspiring examples from other regions:

File the Toledo Botanical Garden's Greenhouse Project under good ideas for Cleveland. They partnered with an urban church to build a greenhouse that offers employment to at-risk youth. "The Greenhouse Project is a (Department of Justice) Weed and Seed project," explained Toledo GROWS Michael Szuberla. "We argued to DOJ that gardening is a crime prevention program."

(In a similar vein, Cleveland Botanical Garden has run its Green Corps market gardens, training Cleveland kids to grow and sell food since 1996.)

In Racine, WI a 'green congregations' effort led to Youth Restoring Earth which trains young adults to provide an energy assessments, promote and sell products to reduce energy, and to assist people in placing these products in their homes. It's a green alternative to those candy bar fundraisers (as an aside, the program was mentioned at a recent Levin College Forum by Paul Ettorre of the Greater Cleveland Energy Alliance who said once the data - on how many households and their energy/water reductions - is in, the Alliance may consider funding a similar project in our region.

In Wolfeboro, NH Sustain-A-Raisers: Applying a Barn Raising Approach to Community Sustainability Projects incorporate youth, volunteerism and low-cost sustainability measures for homes.

If you know of an example in your community, add it here (as a comment).

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