Harkins, Merski: Neary $6,000 in mini grants to bring horticulture to curriculum, educate public about lakeshore habitat

ERIE, June 26 – Two mini grants totaling nearly $6,000 will broaden the Erie public school curriculum to include urban gardening and horticulture and will fund interactive signage to help educate the public about lakeshore habitat, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced.

The lawmakers said a $2,908 mini grant will allow the Erie City School District to develop middle school curriculum units – “An Urban Gardening Design Challenge” and “A Culinary Connection” – which will connect elementary school programming and high school career tracks.

“By incorporating subjects like urban farming and horticulture into the school curriculum, we’re doing more than just teaching kids the hands-on basics,” Harkins said. “We’re generating a love of science, an appreciation for the natural world and an awareness about the world’s diminishing food supply. We’re also helping to create a culture of self-reliance and putting knowledge into the hands of our kids that can one day help sustain our community.”

Merski said, “Garden classrooms are the perfect places to teach so many different lessons. They offer a hands-on look at the life cycle, teach kids about the importance of being good stewards of the environment and give them the thrill of seeing what they can produce with their own hands. They also provide real-world career tracks and introduce major issues like climate change, so these become real-world problems to tackle, not just empty phrases.”

The district has established 15 garden classrooms.

The legislators said a second grant of $3,000 will fund the installation of interactive signage at Headwaters Park to educate the public on lakeshore habitat, history, and species.

Both grants are part of a package of $434,168 in Environmental Education Grants to 55 projects that will engage youth and adults in environmental justice, climate change, and/or water quality improvement, expanding their understanding of these issues in Pennsylvania and providing skills to take responsible action to protect their environment.