City kids learn sustainable, urban farming

Eighth graders at a South Side charter school are trying to grow their own foodwith a little help from non-profit Climate Cycle.

Perspectives Charter School Math and Science Academy students are learning the downside of relying solely on retailers for fresh produce-- truck pollution, freshness and energy consumed are at the forefront. They are also exploring how they can combat those problems.

"You don't always have to depend on the grocery store. You can build your own garden and make your own food. It'll be so much cheaper. You'll save so much energy," Renay Harris, 8th grade, said.

They're starting the work indoors by building miniature greenhouses to get a jumpstart on the growing season.

"One of the things that they are trying to do now is develop something in the classroom is to start the seeds so that they can transplant them outside when the weather is warm," teacher Daniel King said.

"I think the greenhouse will help because of all of the aluminum foil is helping the heat stay in and the plastic wrap so the heat will just be reflected on to the plant," Heru Farrakhan, 8th grade, said.

This kind of experimentation makes Joey Feinstein proud. He heads Climate Cycle, a Chicago-based non-profit group with a mission to inspire students to green the world.

"A year-and-a-half ago, we gave a $10,000 grant to Perspectives to launch a community agriculture project and we're seeing different off-shoots of that ranging from indoor greenhouses to composting campaigns," Feinstein said.

The students will transplant the surviving radishes, sunflowers and lima beans they're planting now into their school garden in the spring.

We're basically creating our own and seeing if we can come up with ways to make it better," Jacarri Relf, 8th grade, said.

After a first experience with the garden last year, students are hoping to recapture the pride that comes with success.

"Oh my God, we grew something! Like wow! We did that!" Harris said.

The Perspectives eighth-graders will be one of several schools presenting their class projects at Climate Cycle's annual fundraiser at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Find out more about the event at climatecycle.org. Learn more about Perspectives at pcsedu.org
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