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Queens Chronicle

Great minds bloom in science garden

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Posted: Thursday, June 4, 2009 12:00 am

They grow organic tomatoes, peppers and broccoli, predict the weather based on the temperature of the soil and air, which they prudently measure and track each day, and cultivate pee-wee caterpillars until they develop into full-fledged butterflies.

Though these daily duties could just as well apply to an environmental scientist, the protagonists in this case still celebrate single-digit birthdays.

Thanks to a sizable patch of land that P.S./M.S. 146 science teacher Jodi Guerriero acquired on school property, her kindergarten through third grade students have a unique arena in which they can apply their science lessons to real life. Each crevice and corner of the science garden is replete with science surprises. The landscaping fabric used to protect the children’s organic vegetable garden is actually fashioned from recycled water bottles.A heart-shaped tulip patch also serves as ground zero for the students’ ongoing meteorological project — where they are measuring rainfall, air and soil temperatures.Even the gate that separates the garden and sidewalk is a study in life science, one where birdhouses devised from orange juice and milk cartons reside.

“It’s really great,” Guerriero said. “Through the curriculum, each class gets to use the garden to learn more.”

Guerriero, who has been teaching at the school for 14 years, approached Principal Mary Reilly with the idea last spring and found a supportive ally in her supervisor. At first, Guerriero funded her project entirely out of pocket, making nightly pilgrimages to Home Depot and spending most of her time in the undeveloped garden. She soon enlisted the help of dedicated staff, parents and even local business owners, proving it may not take a village to raise a garden, but it certainly helps.

Each morning, Tony Luisi, the school’s custodian, mows the garden’s lawn and waters its plants and flower beds using recycled rain water that collects in a homemade vat. Art teacher Robert Aitchison collaborated with Guerriero and her students and crafted multicolored vases and a bird feeder out of mosaic tiles, while teacher Gail Alio helps Guerriero and the children with their planting. Parents have donated watering cans, seeds and flowers and Sugar Bun Bake Shop even pitched in and gave the school an elegant bench where students can relax and observe the fruits of their labors.

“Everyone has been so cooperative,” Guerriero said.

And the ambitious teacher is not ready to hang up her shovel just yet. After expanding the student’s meteorological program, she plans to build a gazebo in the garden.

“I have a lot of ideas,” she said.

Welcome to the discussion.