Congratulations to Green Chimneys, the 5 finalists, and everyone who applied for the grant this year. We received over 200 amazing applications from across the country that demonstrate just how impactful gardening can be on the lives of students and their communities.
Read about the winning project and the 5 runners-up on GEF’s website. Plus, check out our Facebook album that showcases pictures from a large selection of applicants. If you applied, and you see your photos, be sure to tag yourself and the school!
The five finalists will each receive a large garden cart from Gardener’s Supply Company. The winner receives a check for $5,000. This year, Green Chimneys will use the funds for ongoing maintenance projects necessary to sustain the school’s garden and garden infrastructure.
The Green Thumb Challenge grant is an annual contest for school and youth gardens across the nation. The award is designed to support the continued sustainability of an exceptional youth garden program that has demonstrated success, and has impacted the lives of kids and their community.
Since the founding of Green Chimneys in 1947, their gardening program has played an important part in the lives of the student. Many of their special needs students experience emotional disturbance and mental illness. The goal of the school is to work with each child to learn to cope with their disabilities and deal with their deficits. Students learn to reconnect, to relearn basic social skills, and to rebuild the self-esteem that will allow progress towards a high functioning life. In meeting these goals, the gardening program becomes an effective teaching tool as students see first-hand that their contribution makes a difference. They learn that their hard work produces results, not only the creation of produce for the rest of the school to eat at the dining hall, but also the recognition they receive for their change in behavior and improvement of their social skills.
Green Chimneys School’s gardening program is integrated into the curriculum and is provided to every student as part of the regularly scheduled school day. In addition to the integration of the gardens into science, math and language arts classes, formal gardening classes are taught year-round by a certified horticultural therapist. During the spring, summer and fall months, classes are held in one of their organic gardens, where planting maintenance and harvesting of the crops are taught. In the winter, students learn about the scientific side of horticulture, such as plant anatomy and seed propagation in the greenhouse. Last year, students raised over 7,500 pounds of produce that was used in the school’s dining hall, the life skill and nutrition classes, their farm stand, as well as their Green Cuisine Culinary Arts Program.