Two years ago, it was an empty lot; you couldn't walk through it without weeds tickling your knees.

Now, it's a garden shared by five York City schools that grows fruit and vegetables while teaching kids about gardening, science and food.

On Saturday, volunteers worked on the frame of a pavilion that will serve as a classroom area for York City students in the Hope Street Garden & Learning Lab at 446 West Hope St., said Anne Clark, executive director of the Garden.

Workers – all volunteers – will finish the pavilion in about a week, Clark estimates, and the Garden will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 6 p.m. Aug. 26.

Aside from the usual role the pavilion will serve as an outdoor learning space for classes using the Garden, the pavilion can be rented out by anybody. In fact, Clark said, a wedding is scheduled there in June 2015.

Clark is the community outreach director for Lincoln and Helen Thackston charter schools; those two schools share the Garden with Logos Academy, William Penn Senior High School and Crispus Attucks Charter School. Each of the five schools will have a day of the week when it's that schools turn to take students to the Garden, Clark said.

The area where the volunteers were working on the pavilion sits next to 10 gardening beds, where students will grow fruits and vegetables like corn, squash and pumpkins.


Beyond the beds, other volunteers are beginning to put together a greenhouse. Half of it will be used for more fruits and vegetables, so the students will be able to use the Garden in the winter, and the other half will grow flowers for the Garden to sell to raise funds, Clark said.

The idea coalesced in January 2013, when Clark approached the other schools with the idea. They quickly jumped on board, she said, and they found a spot for the Garden and began to put it together shortly after. It's been a year now, and a successful one, Clark believes.

She said they started with a shed and the 10 beds, and now they're adding the pavilion and greenhouse. In the next two years of the Garden's three-year plan, a retaining wall on the southern side and a water fixture will be added, Clark said.

Teachers will use the water fixture to teach biology.

In March 2016, at the end of the three years, Clark's nonprofit that runs the Garden will have the chance to buy the acre-sized area from the city's Redevelopment Authority.

Clark believes the involved learning here is the best way of teaching kids about the subjects the lessons in the Garden will touch on.

"You can teach reading anywhere; you can teach math anywhere," she said. "But this needs to be hands on."

She said a teacher came up to her a little while ago, and told her he'd been teaching his kids about roots all year.

"And he said, 'But it wasn't until I pulled up a plant that they said,'" – Clark smacked her hand to her forehead, miming sudden comprehension – "'"oh – roots!"'"

-- Reach Sean Philip Cotter at