Neighborhood Open Spaces Training

Final Report for ENE01-060

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2001: $30,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $120,000.00
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Elizabeth Johnson
Boston Natural Areas Network
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Project Information

Summary:

The Neighborhood Open Spaces Training Institute, a joint venture of multiple public and private agencies, aims to ensure coordinated training of staff and volunteers for proper maintenance and management of Boston’s neighborhood parks, schoolyards and community gardens. Through classes, workshops, mentoring opportunities and other programs in urban horticulture, working with and managing volunteers; and community organizing; it enables the Partners to continue key educational and training, realize synergies among programs, and expand overall offerings and outreach. The programs impart the skills and strategies necessary to enhance employment opportunities and to inculcate a high level of community involvement.

During Year One, the focus was to establish working relationships among organizations, identify priorities for action, and train youth and adults in urban open space maintenance. Two program initiatives were the focus of Year Two: Greenhouse Education and Youth Career Ladder.

Actual activities involved multiple organizations working together and initiating new activities for housing development residents, with summer youth programs, and in schoolyards in order to reduce the number of open spaces that were not being adequately maintained. Overall, there has been an increase in the number of committed and knowledgeable volunteers and staff who are involved with urban open space maintenance.

Performance Target:

Establish the Neighborhood Open Spaces Training Institute (NOSTI), a public/private initiative, to:

(1) improve neighborhood open space management through increased horticulture and leadership knowledge and skills

(2) enhance employment opportunities

(3) expand a continuum of learning opportunities, synergies among programs, and greater public knowledge of training opportunities.

Specific objectives of Cooperative Extension’s participation with the Neighborhood Open Spaces Training Institute and its education programs over the next three years were:

(1) At seven public housing developments there will be a key volunteer leader who understands sound urban horticulture techniques to guide others to increase garden yields, while reducing pesticide and herbicide use.

(2) At least three Program Assistants will gain the horticulture and leadership skills needed for sustaining and expanding Boston’s urban agricultural youth programs.

(3) At least 100 urban residents will improve their knowledge of how to improve their nutrition and begin agricultural activity through attending city-wide, on-site, and group-planned workshops due to the increased accessibility of program opportunities because of the Institute.

Introduction:

During 2002, Garden Futures, the sponsor of the Neighborhood Open Spaces Training Institute merged with Boston Natural Areas Network, a 25-year old Boston-based organization that preserves and develops stewardship for special kinds of community open spaces: Community Gardens, Urban Wilds, and Greenways. The Institute capitalized on the well-established summer youth program and horticulture expertise of BNAN.

NOSTI seeks to expand inter-organization communication (especially using Internet communication mechanisms) among BNAN, the Extension Service and over a dozen other non-profit and government agencies. From enhanced networking, there have been new and enhanced volunteer and staff (youth and adult) education and work programs that have directly benefited Boston’s non-traditional open spaces, particularly community gardens, schoolyards, housing development grounds, and greenways.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Kristin Battaglia
  • Roy Blomquist
  • Sara Paterson
  • Julie Stone
  • Rita Renee Toll Dubois
  • Gloris Villegas-Cardoz
  • Jo Ann Whitehead

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

Using a variety of techniques to get organizations to work together is the primary approach of the NOSTI project. These techniques include meetings with a well-defined information sharing or educational purpose, pairing experienced practitioners with community-based programs, liberally using e-mail lists and e-mail communication, and creating common interest task groups. In all cases, we sought to not “reinvent wheels” and to build upon existing programs rather than to create new programs.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
Accomplishments:

Publications

Expanded communication among 16 non-profit organizations and public agencies, including interactive e-mail lists and a new schoolyard environmental education task group. Such networking as expanded the variety and scope of education programs to enhance the commitment and abilities of volunteers and staff caring for special kinds of urban open spaces. Programs have included:

City Gardener Certificate Program: January – March; production of a newly revised Course Manual; 8 horticulture and leadership training all-day sessions; 29 participants in 2003.

Master Urban Gardeners Program: (a further refined version of the City Gardener Certificate program): January – March 2003; 30 participants in 2003.

Boston Public Schools Custodial Staff Training: spring 2002; 25 participants and publication of the On-Site Personnel Training Manual.
Boston Public Schools Friends Group Training program: spring/summer 2002; volunteer-led trainings for parent, teacher, custodian, administration, neighbor teams.

Annual Gardeners Gatherings: March 23, 2002 and scheduled for March 22, 2003; 23 different workshops plus other urban gardeners networking; 300 attendees.

Hassan Housing Development Greenhouse Workshop: May 1, 2001, led by Michael Connor, former Boston Parks Department chief horticulturist

“Green Team”: youth serving community garden, schoolyard, and public housing neighborhood open spaces during summer 2002.

Garden Mosaics: July-August 2002 with Youth Opportunity Boston team and BNAN East Boston Youth Conservation Corps team; 2003 training other schoolyard education providers and teachers to use the program; Garden Mosaics serves as a catalyst to expand networking and collaboration among organizations concerned with schoolyard maintenance and education.

Learning Garden: summer 2002, established a demonstration urban vegetable garden and offered regular gardening and horticulture workshops to community garden leaders and others.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Outcomes

(1) Expanded communication among 16 non-profit organizations and public agencies, including interactive email lists and a new schoolyard environmental education task group. As a result of the network, the organizations are sharing program ideas and collaborating on new initiatives to maintain non-traditional urban open spaces through regular meetings and Internet communication. These initiatives has resulted in new education programs for staff and volunteers, youth and adults thereby improving the maintenance of urban open spaces, particularly at 50 schoolyard, community garden, and housing development sites.

(2) Developed a Career Track Directory of outdoor/environmental summer education/work programs. The data collected has been integrated into a comprehensive youth career training services initiative of Boston area foundations.

(3) Further refined the Master Urban Gardener education program resulting in nearly an additional 50 volunteers who are trained and committed to maintaining urban open spaces. The program has increased the longevity and sophistication of the volunteers’ commitment. Volunteers are maintaining not only community gardens, but also greenways and schoolyards.

(4) Created a variety of learning opportunities to develop a continuum of open space stewardship involvement. The citywide Gardeners Gatherings, an ongoing Learning Garden, hands-on workshops, custodian training, and the Garden Mosaics program trainings are both encouraging and empowering staff and volunteers to take a more active role in maintaining non-traditional public open spaces.

The outcomes related to the performance targets/objectives for the Cooperative Extension’s participation with the Neighborhood Open Spaces Training Institute and its education programs over the next two years are as follows:

1) Youth workers at two Boston Housing developments: Washington-Beech and at Franklin Field received training and supported the 4-H and community gardening efforts. A total of seven Developments was not reached because the Boston Housing Authority totally eliminated its youth work program midway through year one of our project.

2) Three Program Assistants did take the City Gardener Certificate program and gain the horticulture and leadership skills needed for sustaining and expanding Boston’s urban agricultural youth programs. Maria Lebron at Mission SAFE help convert the backyard littered deep with years of broken glass to a safe community gardening space with raised beds and organic produce. Ana Santiago assisted Maria and later worked with another Certificate program graduate at the Franklin Hill Housing development in getting started a garden with the summer youth program. Jean Rogers delivered gardening programming with Franklin Field Housing Development youth for two seasons – with the youth finally inspiring the adults from the senior development to get involved. However, there were persistent problems that continue to pose challenges to a sustained effort, access to water notwithstanding, no permanent hardscape for the gardens, and no support from the Housing Authority administration.

(3) Nearly two hundred urban residents (100 young people outside of school, 75 in school, and 20 adults began agricultural activity through attending a variety of different format workshops.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Expanded communication among 16 non-profit organizations and public agencies, including interactive e-mail lists and a new schoolyard environmental education task group. Such networking as expanded the variety and scope of education programs to enhance the commitment and abilities of volunteers and staff caring for special kinds of urban open spaces. Programs have included:

City Gardener Certificate Program: January – March; production of a newly revised Course Manual; 8 horticulture and leadership training all-day sessions; 29 participants in 2003.

Master Urban Gardeners Program: (a further refined version of the City Gardener Certificate program): January – March 2003; 30 participants in 2003.

Boston Public Schools Custodial Staff Training: spring 2002; 25 participants and publication of the On-Site Personnel Training Manual.
Boston Public Schools Friends Group Training program: spring/summer 2002; volunteer-led trainings for parent, teacher, custodian, administration, neighbor teams.

Annual Gardeners Gatherings: March 23, 2002 and scheduled for March 22, 2003; 23 different workshops plus other urban gardeners networking; 300 attendees.

Hassan Housing Development Greenhouse Workshop: May 1, 2001, led by Michael Connor, former Boston Parks Department chief horticulturist

“Green Team”: youth serving community garden, schoolyard, and public housing neighborhood open spaces during summer 2002.

Garden Mosaics: July-August 2002 with Youth Opportunity Boston team and BNAN East Boston Youth Conservation Corps team; 2003 training other schoolyard education providers and teachers to use the program; Garden Mosaics serves as a catalyst to expand networking and collaboration among organizations concerned with schoolyard maintenance and education.

Learning Garden: summer 2002, established a demonstration urban vegetable garden and offered regular gardening and horticulture workshops to community garden leaders and others.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Potential Contributions

A directory format for sharing summer program opportunities and having program build upon each other.

Community-based training materials for care of urban open spaces.

Future Recommendations

With increased reductions in government funding, the variety of organizations involved in maintaining open spaces must continue to work together to not only improve the physical places, but to work together to maximize opportunities for education and training. A variety of methods and programs are necessary to maintain such interagency cooperation and activity.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.