RPS invited residents to pick a plot and garden

February 24, 2011 // 0 Comments

Community Gardens to grow in two locations by BETH ALTENA If you don’t have a spot for a plot on your lot, your site isn’t sunny or you just have a bad case of black thumb, Rockford Public Schools (RPS) has just the fix. RPS unveiled last week plans for two community gardens, open to individuals, businesses or groups, complete with help from multiple master gardeners. “Apparently great minds think alike,” said Lisa Jacobs, director of RPS Community Services. A local restaurant sous chef, a group of environmentally minded middle school students and RPS staff all began thinking of the possibilities of a community garden and how one organized by the school might happen. Michael Farrell, sous chef at Reds on the River, approached RPS to talk about starting such an endeavor and found out the school was already putting together a tentative proposal for a community garden system. That was a year ago, and plans have blossomed into a new way for the community to partner with the schools and grow their own flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs. “We are so out-of-our minds excited,” said Meredith Gremel, of Gremel Communications, who is helping organize the gardens along with Jacobs. A kick-off meeting was held Tuesday, Feb. 15 at the Rockford Freshman Center, and the public turnout showed the strong interest in sharing ground for growing at two locations. The Community Gardens are planned for the administration building at 330 North Main Street in downtown Rockford and East Rockford Middle School at 8615 9 Mile Road. Students at East Rockford Middle School (ERMS) participate in Earthkeepers, a magnet focused on environmental and nature studies (see related story, page 8). As they used nature-related ideas to learn language arts, math, science, social studies and more, the idea of creating a garden on the property of the school came up. Principal Mike Ramm saw the possibilities. “Earthkeepers is about getting your hands dirty while learning,” Ramm said. “That gave ERMS the idea of a garden.” He said the possibilities of skills needed in gardening, architectural and structural, healthy living and foods, math and budgeting, all can be used in planning and growing a garden. According to Ramm, one extremely enthusiastic student, John Wiley, really pushed for the […]

ERMS magnet leading Rockford into greener days

February 24, 2011 // 0 Comments

Environmentally friendly education leaves the schoolroom by BETH ALTENA They learn about everything with a nature in mind. The East Rockford Middle School (ERMS) Earthkeepers magnet includes sixth- and seventh-grade students who, between them, not only cover the different areas of traditional curriculum with nature-themed studies, but are also literally changing the landscape around them. The Earthkeepers convinced Principal Mike Ramm to propose a community garden on school property, a plan which dovetails nicely with similar plans underway at the Rockford Administrative Building property in downtown Rockford (see related story, page 1). They hope to further involve the public in promoting environmentally friendly practice with the use of rain barrels and hope to ask the City of Rockford to jump on board as well. Along with the members of the Izaak Walton League, the school is working with Groundswell, a coalition of community partners with a goal of hands-on environmental learning. The class was visited late in 2010 in preparation for spring of 2011, when they hope to be prepared to present the public with rain barrels as a fundraiser but mostly to promote environmentally friendly use of rainfall. “Any time you can create excitement by making curriculum come to life and even branch out into the community, you can see the students’ passion and enthusiasm. They know they are making a difference,” said Ramm. Ramm said the kids are divided into magnets at ERMS according to their own interests. Earthkeepers is just one of several, and creates an interesting dynamic. Teacher Linda Spencer points out that the environmental nature of the magnet draws the students who like outdoor activities such as hunting as well as nature-lovers who want to save the rainforests and whales and don’t understand hunters at all. Among the projects students undertake as they learn core curriculum studies—such as math, science, social studies, language and technology—are building rain barrels and planting gardens. Rain barrels are a project that is ideal for many reasons, but especially suited to school groups. According to Georgia Donovan, local Izaak Walton League president, rain barrels can be made cheaply and by pretty much anyone. Along with past president and board member Duane DeVries, Donovan walked the students through the creation and use of rain barrels. “You […]