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County: Middlesex

Town: Cambridge

The City Sprouts summer program in Cambridge serves 100 middle school youth in a four­week (9am- l pm) internship based at each of the four Upper Schools in Cambridge. The internship is a unique opportunity for young people ages 10-14 to learn firsthand about the natural ecology of their local environment, starting with the school garden. Through the summer, the middle school youth explore the intersection of ecosystems, food systems and social systems in their community. The youth take care of their school garden, go on field trips, cook their own lunch each day, explore the garden ecosystem, and create projects to address social justice issues in the food system and in their town. The program is designed to make positive changes in young people’s food systems knowledge and healthy food choices, deepen their interest in science, technology engineering, math (STEM), and help build a foundation for healthy social emotional skills. The CitySprouts summer program is tuition free. Each intern who completes the internship receives $100 to mark what they’ve learned and the contributions they’ve made to their school and neighborhood. The CitySprouts middle school program would not be possible without the Summer Program fellows and CitySprouts’ collaboration with Commonwealth Corps and Cambridge Youth Programs. CitySprouts maintains garden programs in each Cambridge public elementary school and as a whole receives funding each year from the Cambridge School District. It also annually raises additional funds with the help of a gala event and several sponsors. CitySprouts has branched into helping schools in Boston set up garden programs in recent years. My two children both participated in the CitySprouts summer internship program. My daughter started with a love of animals and insects when she participated in CitySprouts in 2014. As part of the summer program she worked at a large local organic urban farm, which makes our air cleaner and helps attract beneficial pollinators. She then became focused on helping make the environment safe for the creatures she loves. She is now in high school and will take AP Environment Science next year and plans to study that subject in college. My son, who is in 7th grade, participated in the summer program in 2016. He discovered he loves the details of vegetable growing and soil and is currently planning his spring garden in yard space behind our apartment building. He’s used his CitySprouts internship stipend to buy garden materials! He reads gardening books for fun, draws sketches of his garden design, and tells us about the various soils qualities each kind of plant needs. It’s become an interest that defines him. It allows him to make many choices and gives him the opportunity to mold a long-term project-both things that aren’t really possible in traditional school classrooms. Our family went to the Gardeners Gathering expo at N01theastern University in March 2017 where he along with us learned about biochar, no-till farming and container growing. The science he’s learning is important and complex. Both our children’s interests in growing food has led to lifestyle changes for our entire family-we eat a more plant-based diet, seek out organic foods, and even reuse dish water to flush our toilet so that we can preserve more water for the garden. Growing food is an interest that now shapes the values of our entire family. We are grateful for the CitySprouts internship program for giving our children a wide perspective of the food system through hands-on gardening and for providing an engaging point of entry into science.

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