The many sides of gardening


CYC kids aren’t afraid of getting their hands a little dirty.

Whether they’re growing their own vegetables, beautifying their neighborhoods, or learning about the environment, CYC’s various gardening programs immerse children in a broad variety of subjects.


While the weather is chillier, the children at CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center in North Lawndale are learning about seed viability. Out-of-School Time Manager Kim George said the weekly gardening class uses three simple tools for this: a seed, a damp paper towel, and sunlight.

By wrapping a seed in a damp paper towel within a sandwich bag and taping it to the window, the kids are able to closely monitor if the seed is sprouting.

“They talk about how long it takes for a seed to germinate, then they count out and set up a timeline for when they expect the seeds to grow,” Kim said. “If the seeds are growing, we know they are viable and will work well in a garden.”

By marking how many seeds germinate, the kids are also able to calculate the probability that a plant will successfully grow in their garden.

“Gardening is very academic,” Kim said. “It’s a good hands-on-way of learning different topics. There are simple things like having practice counting, and other parts like monitoring weather.

Aside from the strong math and science components of gardening, youth are also learning good nutrition habits, facts about the environment, skills like patience and persistence, and an appreciation for community engagement.

“I like to learn about plants and how they grow,” said Clayton, 8. “It is important because we need plants to survive.”

Later this month, the children will present about seed viability and youth gardening at the Chicago Community Gardeners Association Conference.

“This will be their third time presenting,” Kim said. “It’s just really encouraging for them.”

Last fall, the garden at CYC-Epstein also received the Chicago Excellence in Gardening Award.