The garden’s mission is to create and sustain an organic garden that involves public school and summer day camp students in all aspects of farming the garden, as well as preparing, serving and eating food grown in the garden. The Learning Garden engages children in hands-on stewardship of the land and integrates academic curricula into the garden experience.

The Learning Garden began in 2006 as a small children’s garden composed of two sections: a vegetable garden and sensory garden. In the last six years, the garden has grown from 2,500 square feet to 28,000 square feet. The Learning Garden is especially focused on bringing students from its adjoining communities of the South Bronx and East Harlem. In 2010 the Randall’s Island Learning Garden, part of the Randall’s Island Park Alliance joined forces with GrowNYC.

The Randall’s Island Learning Garden (RILG) program emphasizes healthy food choices through growing cycles, seasonality, sustainability and knowledge. Students receive a thorough grounding in how food is planted, grown, harvested and prepared. Students are introduced to new foods and participate in the preparation of foods as healthy snacks for themselves. As part of the Edible Education Program, students cook produce they have harvested in our outdoor kitchen.

The program emphasizes development of life and social skills as well as gardening skills. Students work in teams learning cooperation, respect for themselves and others, active listening and the diversity of agricultural traditions within different cultures.

The plants grown in the garden included those related to diverse cultures such as curry, tomatillos, bitter melon, shiso, Job’s Tears, cilantro and Asian greens. Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are also grown in The Learning Garden.

The garden also features an apple orchard composed of 40 New York City’s native apple tree, the Newtown Pippin and 12 Kazakhstan apple trees, the most ancient apple tree in the world. The Randall’s Island Kazakhstan apple trees are the first ones planted anywhere in the US.

One of the most unique features of the garden are its two man-made rice paddies. Every year, when its time to harvest the rice, RILG organizes a Rice Festival, featuring a prominent chef from the New York area.

In 2012, RILG added 10 chickens. The chickens arrived when they were one day old and children feed the chickens as part of The Learning Garden Program. The chickens are feed only organic feed and scraps from the garden. They have 5,000 sq. ft. pasture to roam around in. Nick Storrs, our Urban Farmer and Aaron Moritz, horticulture staff member built a chicken tractor,which transports the chickens from the pasture to a more secure location at night.

A portion of RILG is devoted to the four senses: smell, touch, sight and hearing. The plants in the sensory part of the garden feature, “A Botanical Zoo” including, Lamb’s Ears (Stachys), Bear’s Breeches (Acanthus), Tricyrtis (Toad Lilly) and Cornus serrata (Dogwood).

For more information about The Learning Garden contact: phyllis.odessey@parks.nyc.gov

For more information about Randall’s Island Park Alliance visit:


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