Knowledge, learning sprouts from Eastway gardens

By Sarah Mansur

Robin Dixon of Durham’s Neighborhood Improvement Services harvests Chinese cabbage from the children’s garden at Eastway Elementary School.

UNC Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

When Lynette Hackney first started teaching at Eastway Elementary School in 2008, she needed a new way to teach science.

Hackney, who now teaches kindergarten, said she started a garden behind Eastway to teach plant concepts.

In the spring of 2011, the Eastway garden attracted new participants.

Robin Dixon, who works for Durham’s Neighborhood Improvement Services Department, became involved with planting the gardens at Eastway that spring.

“I kept thinking that the garden would be a good idea for over here because the kids don’t get to eat fresh produce,” said Dixon.

On Nov. 21, Dixon harvested the crops from the Eastway garden for the Backpack Program, which provides students who rely on school lunches with a backpack full of food for the weekend.  Students will receive backpacks full of the harvested beets, Chinese cabbage, romaine lettuce and collards.

Dixon said she was motivated to join with the Eastway garden project because it serves as a multifunctional community green space, which is one scheme of the NECD Livability Initiative.

She said she wanted to have kids growing vegetables in the garden because it would promote nutritional and healthy eating habits.

Herbert Johnson, director of Feed My Sheep of Durham and president of the Bull City Urban Market, cuts romaine lettuce from the garden beds at Eastway Elementary School while talking about his plans to have the children sell produce at the market.

Dixon recruited members of Feed My Sheep of Durham to help with her plans for the garden.

Herbert Johnson, the director of Feed My Sheep, said the garden project encourages kids to grow their own gardens.

“The unique thing about the garden is that the children can see it grow and they can see where the food comes from,” Johnson said, “When they go home and cook it, the cycle comes full circle.”

Johnson, who is also president of the Bull City Urban Market, said he has wants to include the children of Eastway in his plans for the market.

He said he wants to stimulate their entrepreneurial spirit by providing children with a booth at the market where they can sell their crops and make money.

Dixon said that students will learn essential accounting and business skills by selling their crops.

“Kids need to understand how to manage money and how hard it is to keep a business going,” she said.

Dixon said she hopes that the garden project at Eastway will continue so that the children can continue to benefit from it. Plus, she enjoys her work at Eastway.

“I like doing it,” Dixon said. “I think its a worthwhile cause.”