Keep Charleston Beautiful, Charleston, South Carolina

The Green Heart Project is a community-based volunteer organization that integrates school farms as outdoor classrooms in an effort to teach students the virtues of hard work, respect and success and reiterate classroom curriculum while connecting students and volunteers to fresh, healthy, locally-grown produce. The City of Charleston’s Keep Charleston Beautiful is dedicated to promoting a cleaner more beautiful Charleston through education, awareness, and community involvement. In 2013, these two groups came together through a Lowe’s grant to improve a school based garden in the heart of Downtown Charleston.
The Green Heart Project was founded in 2009 with its pilot garden built with students and volunteers at Mitchell Elementary School in downtown Charleston. Over the past 5 years, the garden has grown from 5 small raised beds in the schoolyard to encompass over 12,000 ft of garden space, including a 5,500 ft vegetable garden, a native species and herb garden, and a 35 tree fruit orchard including citrus, papaya, figs, pomegranate and blueberries. The garden is utilized by the entire school as outdoor learning laboratory where students, alongside volunteer mentors, partake in every part of the growing cycle, from seed, to harvest, to tasting!
Although the entire garden functions as a an outdoor learning space, one component has been on the wish list for many years, an outdoor classroom – a covered place for our students, teachers and volunteers to gather to discuss the concepts taught between the vegetable rows. Working in conjunction with the Keep Charleston Beautiful, an affiliate of KAB, the Green Heart Project was able to secure funding and volunteers through a Lowe’s Charitable & Education Foundation grant to build and install not only a beautiful outdoor classroom complete with benches and tables, but also a 1500 gallon cistern to harvest all of the rain captured on the roof. The rain-water harvesting system will not only function to help irrigate the surrounding garden beds, but will be a lesson in and of itself teaching sustainable gardening practices and touch on the importance of sustainability in the times of today. Even though the community volunteer day landed on one of the coldest and windiest days this year, a small group of dedicated, hard working volunteers came out to help. Though they could not feel their fingers or faces, a lot of progress was made and the outdoor garden classroom began to take shape.
Our Farm-to-School program at Mitchell, students are ecstatic to begin using the outdoor classroom in the spring season of 2014 and are grateful for the partnership and volunteers at KAB and Lowe’s for their support and help in making our outdoor classroom a reality! Volunteers from Keep Charleston Beautiful and local Lowe’s stores are invited to continue working with the Green Heart team and the school garden throughout the year. This is an ongoing, ever growing, project that brings the students and community together.

Keep Phoenix Beautiful – Phoenix, AZ

On Saturday, May 18, volunteers came out to the largest vacant lot transformation in the country – PHX Renews! Volunteers assisted in creating cover crops in the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension garden to improve the health of the soil. Volunteers also assisted in installing parts of a 160-piece public art collection on site. The art was created by various artists and the public under the direction of Hugo Medina.

PHX Renews is a project envisioned by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and implemented by local nonprofit Keep Phoenix Beautiful. The basis behind this project is to document and find temporary uses of vacant urban land, which is scattered all across Phoenix.

PHX Renews is centered on a 15-acre parcel at the intersection of Central & Indian School Roads in central Phoenix. This property is privately held by the Barron Collier Company of Naples, Fla., and has been vacant for over 20 years.

Keep Phoenix Beautiful is a 501(c)3 organization and an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, a past partner of KAB, has converted over 6,000 vacant lots in Philadelphia into green space. While green space is difficult to achieve in our arid desert climate, the achievements of the Philadelphia program are hard to ignore. Several KPB staff members have spent time at PHS projects learning best practices and witnessing their accomplishments.

For more information, visit PHXRenews.org or KeepPhxBeautiful.org.