Hewlett-Wwoodmere students plant, and learn

Grant Park to get 19 trees from community garden


Education and restoration are the main components of the tree-replanting program undertaken by teachers and students in the Hewlett-Woodmere School District at its community garden.
Last Saturday, with assistance from the Cornell Cooperative Extension program, which provided master gardeners, approximately 30 people helped prepare for the relocation of 19 trees from the community garden to Grant Park in Hewlett this Sunday. The county park will welcome three species of trees — red maple, walnut and tulip — to replace those destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. The school district also worked with the Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District and the county parks department.
The trees being moved to the park were planted three years ago. Funding initially provided by the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Schools Endowment Fund helped students purchase the tools and materials used to start the garden. Once it began producing crops, they were harvested and sold, generating more money to purchase equipment to maintain the garden. Some crops are also donated to those in need in the community.
Students’ work in the community garden is part of an educational model known as systems thinking. David Rifkind, a Hewlett High School social studies teacher and the district’s youth leadership adviser, said the garden, the tree project and systems-thinking learning complement each other.
“I would sum it up as an array of critical-thinking tools focused on seeing events in terms of all the elements that impact that event,” he said. “So, while the tree thing is very exciting for us all, as we are providing native Long Island species trees to the local community to bring back our regional natural strength, plant[ing] trees that are appropriate for the weather and attract[ing] local bird species, systems thinking is a larger idea. I use systems-thinking tools in my classroom to enhance critical thinking and improve analytical skills critical to essay writing.”

Grant Park was chosen as the recipient of the replanted trees because of the number of trees it lost, explained Reiner Scherzinger, a Hewlett High School junior. “When the community garden learned of an opportunity to help out by growing trees to replant at the park, we decided to take on this endeavor,” he said. “Along the way, we encountered several issues, such as how to distribute water and how to keep the trees straight. We hope these new trees will provide a renewed sense of beauty and security to the people using Grant Park, and give back shade and a habitat for the birds and other small animals and insects that are important to that community.”
Chenab Khakh, another Hewlett High junior, said she loved being a part of the community garden. “It’s magical to see seeds grow into beautiful, vibrant vegetables, which then we either donate to local soup kitchens or sometimes use to experiment in recipes,” she said. “By transplanting trees, I hope to not only develop an annual community project to bring together students of all ages, parents and teachers, but also to revitalize the local environment after losing many native trees due to Superstorm Sandy.”
Students who work in the garden say they have learned a lot. “What I enjoy most about being involved with the community garden is seeing how each of the seven empty beds in the garden transform each growing season into an amazing new environment with many different varieties of vegetables and plant life,” Scherzinger said. “There’s an atmosphere of patience, respect and unity in the garden that has grown in all of those involved.”


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