project leader
Emily C
Black Street
(East Liberty )
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Great News!

the project

We believe that when we grow in our understanding of connectedness to ourselves, each other, and our earth, we are able build a better neighborhood, one that will, in the words of Margaret Walker, “hold all the people.” Therefore, we believe it is essential to invest in the social-emotional growth of the youth in our community.

OMA Pittsburgh is partnering with Borland Garden to expand Art in the Garden, a free ten week community-based program for youth. Art in the Garden utilizes the beauty and resources of our urban green space to facilitate systems thinking activities that engage social-emotional learning, the arts, and environmental science as youth explore the natural world as an interconnected system. A systems thinking approach teaches the ability to see short-term, long-term, and unintended consequences, to think critically and creatively, and to see beyond the boundaries of existing systems. When gardening is taught using this approach, youth apply the skills and knowledge they learn—what a tomato plant needs to grow, the importance of strong roots, composting’s effect on soil—to every aspect of their lives. Through this approach, this program seeks to enable youth to grasp, in deep and lasting ways, the interconnectedness of all living beings, and the ways in which we are all whole and all belong.


the steps

Art in the Garden was founded four years ago by Scilla Wahrhaftig, the head of the Pittsburgh branch of the American Friends Service Committee. Art in the Garden aims to fill a void in our neighborhood for activities for youth by engaging them in Borland Garden in an active, structured, and supportive way. For the past four years, Art in the Garden has been a thriving summer program in Borland Garden, occurring once a week for two hours, serving as many as twenty youth. Every year, youth and their families ask us to expand the program, and this year we hope to make that wish come true by expanding it to three days a week, with longer hours. We have a long-term vision of expanding this program beyond Borland Garden and continuing to develop the curriculum by responding to community needs.  

Community outreach is an essential part of Art in the Garden. The first step, once we have funding secured, is for the Lead Teacher and Assistant Teacher to get to know the families of the youth who will be attending Art in the Garden.

A bit more about the curriculum: Each week, in our exploration of the relationships between elements in the garden, we will focus on a different theme. These themes are: rainwater, the sun, the cistern, compost, worms, chickens, the pollinator garden, bees, vegetables, and native fruit trees. Each day will include snack, opening circle with community building or mindfulness activity, a read-aloud related to the learning objective, a structured activity, supervised free-play, a second structured activity, and a closing circle. At the end of summer, youth will also have the opportunity to present (read or perform) a small book of their writing, drawings, and experiments, as the community comes together to celebrate the power of their voices.

Sample activity: How are seeds spread? After discussing this question to gain an understanding of what we know, and what we wonder, we will read Planting the Wild Garden to understand how wind, pollinators, the sun, rain, and animals work together to grow plants and sow seeds. To further explore this topic, youth will be led on an in-depth exploration of the pollinator garden to further explore the essential question. Finally, youth will have the opportunity to engage in ability-specific projects that allow them to simulate various processes of seed-spreading including: collecting and disseminating seeds (and designing their own seed packets), designing seed “parachutes” to understand how some seeds (like dandelions) are caught and carried by the wind, and growing shoots from fruits (with their choice of avocado, lemon, orange, passion fruit, or mango) to understand how a fruit is like a tiny seed packet. After sharing out their observations, youth will have a chance to write or dictate a persona poem (we will have read persona poems the book Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems by Kristine George when begining our exploration of native trees in the days prior to this lesson) from the point of view of a seed, narrating the story of how it spreads.

why we're doing it

Borland Garden has become a mainstay for youth in East Liberty. Youth and their parents have expressed both a desire and need for expanded summer programing in the garden.

We believe that when we grow in our understanding of connectedness to ourselves, each other, and our earth, we are able build a better neighborhood.

We believe systems thinking in conjunction with social and emotional learning has the power to help youth as they work to reframe untrue and distorted or limited beliefs and that this can create space for the positive transformation of self, family, and community.

We believe that all people deserve access to healthy food.

We believe all people have a right to easily access and enjoy green space.

We believe children need nature and we believe in the transformative power and healing potential of nature.


Disbursed Budget:

RAISED = $5,520.00
 less ioby Platform Fee  $35.00
less ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $159.76

$5,000 goes toward paying our talented teachers

$150 goes toward outdoor games/ gardening and art supplies

$175.24 goes toward extending the program

Original Budget:

This program is free to participating youth

$5,000 goes toward paying our talented teachers

$150 goes toward outdoor games/ gardening and art supplies

$800 goes toward extending the program

SUBTOTAL = 5,950
ioby Platform Fee  $35
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $179



Great News!

We are excited to announce our two outstanding teachers, Cathy Fitzgerald and Molly Bernsten, both of whom have had extensive experience working with youth.

We are so grateful to HOIN INC, an organization that feeds over 2,000 kids locally this summer, as they will be providing free breakfasts and lunches for the youth! Thanks to this generous donation of food we're able to change our fundraising goal to $7,275. This means we can currenlty run the program for one month and need to raise $3,250 more dollars to ensure that the program can run for the full ten weeks. Any amount raised beyond this goes to support future OMA Youth Programming!




This is where photos will go once we build flickr integration


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