February 26, 2021

Growing Food in Schoolyards

by Paula Hewitt Amram                                                                   On August 6 young urban farmers working with Open Road and the Bronx Enchanted Garden harvested fresh fruits and vegetables to serve in the school cafeteria. The next day the young farmers served the food themselves alongside cafeteria staff to hundreds of teenagers in the JFK school building in the Bronx. This is all part of FOOD, a program of Open Road in partnership with the NYC Department of Education and Garden to Cafe. Click here for our map of food gardens and summer meals.  

Danny Steiner of Bronx Theater High School guided the team in how to harvest carrots, tomatoes, peaches, sorrel, and many more fresh delicious vegetables and fruits. Open Road has worked with the Enchanted Garden since its beginnings as a trash filled vacant lot, and one of the original youth co-founders of the garden, Oz, led the team through a colorful history of the design and development of the Enchanted Garden. 

Stormwater ponds and swales used to run through the garden, but these have fallen into disuse. We are working with the students at the JFK campus to redesign this system, and improve the garden for food growing. 

In each of five zones, FOOD youth have mapped sites where public meals are provided, entered data onto Google Maps, and surveyed locations to assure they were operating as advertised. Beyond the youth staff and volunteers, hundreds more youth and families are benefiting from improved gardens, increased rates of healthy fresh food in public feeding programs, and community art and architecture our youth are producing related to food. Our youth team has been advocating for improved menus at public feeding programs, and have met with SchoolFood officials and elected officials in the City Council to advance this work. This youth team has advocated for fresh food grown in the city and on nearby farms to be included in the menu of public feeding programs, and in each zone the team has intensively studied, assessed, and surveyed the menu of at least one public feeding program, to ensure improvements are made. Our youth team has held 10 events to alert the community to locations where food should be served to youth, to share food grown in gardens, and involve neighborhood people in our advocacy. 

January 1, 2021

The Art & Science of Water Maps: Settings, Landscapes, Topo maps, Elevation

Photographs and Blog Post by Paula Hewitt

The summers of 2013 through 2021 we took road trips with kids to NYC ponds and reservoirs and to watershed areas upstate. We swam in the ponds, drew the reservoirs, and traced our drinking water from bodies of water upstate to our water fountains and taps in the city. We made 2D and 3D water maps. We used Oasis maps as the base for NYC locations, and USGS maps and travel maps outside the city. We introduce topography and elevations with Minecraft.

We added 3D topography to blueprints of NYC gardens and rooftops

This blueprint of the Seward Park roof (above) in lower manhattan shows gravity fed water tubes and rainwater harvest tanks.

This 3D model (above) shows an imaginary sinkhole, waterway, and reservoir with topographical elements exaggerated in a cartoonish way

This way we could understand the lines in the topo map above.

We made 3D digital models, using the elevations from a real garden, and showed the reservoirs, ponds, swales, streams and cement water holding tanks under the ground

We superimposed an aerial photo over the 3D digital map so it looks realistic

It's easy to make the topo maps with child safety scissors, a pencil and a rubber mat

Parts of the topographical water maps are moveable, so people can move, rearrange and replace parts of the maps. This helps them understand the map features, by playing with them.

August 1, 2020

August 18, 2019

Homeschool and School Students Strike for Climate in Brooklyn

On September 20, 2019 We are supporting Homeschool and School Students who are planning a School Strike for Climate. Go to FridaysForFuture.org for more information.

July 25, 2018

Youth Run Market in Harlem

Open Road has worked with Brotherhood Sister Sol in Harlem on participatory design of sustainable practices, including gardens, greenhouses, and a youth run market.

April 22, 2018

Earth Day 2018

A Day in the Life of Prospect Park

Children and Teenagers led Citizen Science Service projects in Prospect Park for Earth Day 2018

April 3, 2016

Heavy Metals, Health, Nutrition, and Architecture

Test playground and garden soil for Heavy Metals. 

Read this interview from 1998 with Paula Hewitt, Selim Iltus, and other proponents of testing playgrounds and gardens for Heavy Metals. Oddly, the article misreads the "heavy metals" as being the metal of play equipment instead of metals in the soil. Toxicity is mentioned instead as being found in sandboxes. Hmm.  Please. Test your soil. 

At Playgrounds, Heavy Metal Is Out, Gardening Is In

Garden Links from 2014, Bronx

June 6, 2015

Pop up Playground: Squibb

Photographs and Blog Post by Paula Hewitt.

The Parks Department asked us to design and build a playground in a spot that had been abandoned for 10 years. We designed and fabricated metal obstacles for skateboarding and BMX biking. We engineered a surfacing plan that would capture rainwater runoff and direct it toward the trees, while providing a velvety smooth surface for skateboarding, wheelchair sports, biking, and free play. Our architects worked with professional skateboarders to create a simple open layout, which was approved by Parks, and we were awarded an Adopt a Parks agreement. We brought in our moveable metal equipment that we set up and took down each day. We stored the equipment and our clean-up supplies in the renovated parkhouse, we opened and supervised the bathrooms, and we kept Squibb open, all volunteer, for two years. Following this successful test-run, Parks opened Squibb to the public. Here are pictures of it all.

Contractors applying the Sports Coat according to our specifications

Our design captures rainwater runoff and directs it toward the trees, while providing a velvety smooth surface for scooters, bikes, skateboards and free play

Squibb was abandoned and shut down for 10 years, and looked like this (above) when we took on the design and stewardship of the project.