The Preservation Society of Newport County has received a $4,705 planning grant from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities (RICH) Major Grants program to develop a curriculum for an Edible Schoolyard (ESY) Project at Green Animals Topiary Garden in Portsmouth. ESY is a national program founded by Berkeley, California chef Alice Waters, to educate children about healthier food choices and respect for one another and the land.

The Green Animals project will provide hands-on classes to teach students in grades K-12 about sustainable gardening practices, proper nutrition, and the role food plays in our social and cultural lives. Topics to be explored will include how land use has changed on Aquidneck Island over time, the changes in traditional New England horticultural practices introduced by later immigrants, and the role of “gentlemen’s farms” in the late 19th century.

“We want to promote good health and also engage young people in learning the importance of preservation, sustainability, and our connections to the earth and to each other,” said Preservation Society CEO & Executive Director Trudy Coxe.  “We’re very thankful for the support that RICH has provided to get us started.”

The planning team is led by Preservation Society Curator of Historic Landscapes Jim Donahue.  Research & Interpretation Coordinator Abigail Stewart, a former teacher, will ensure that lessons align with core curricula; Patricia Bailey, outreach horticulturist at Green Animals, will travel to California for training to ensure that the curriculum aligns with the proven standards established by ESY. Educators from school systems across Aquidneck Island will be included in the curriculum creation process.  The goal is to pilot the program in spring 2017.

ESY currently informs 5,300 school programs serving over eight million students across the country. By affiliating with the program, the Preservation Society will have access to a wealth of resources developed in thousands of successful programs to assist in developing lesson plans that use the resources of Green Animals to engage students.

The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities is an independent state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The Council seeds, supports, and strengthens public history, cultural heritage, civic education, and community engagement by and for all Rhode Islanders.

The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, is a non-profit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes, decorative arts and social history.  Its 11 historic properties–seven of them National Historic Landmarks–span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.

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