Akron Urban League breaks ground for Urban Farm Hoop House for year-round STEM program

June 8, 2018

Akron Urban League breaks ground for Urban Farm Hoop House for year-round STEM program

AKRON, Ohio - The Akron Urban League will soon offer students opportunities to strengthen their financial skills by working, hands-on, with agriculture and farming.

On Friday, the Urban League broke ground for an Urban Farm Hoop House at its headquarters at 440 Vernon Odom Blvd.

When the greenhouse is constructed this summer, students in the STEM After School Junior Leaguer’s Math Club, grades 6-8, will be able to work year-round in the hoop house, applying science and math principles to growing food.

At harvest time, they’ll hone their entrepreneurial skills by managing the Urban Farms Farmers Market.

“We are extremely excited to begin work on our Urban Farm and we intend to have our students engaged in every aspect of the building, planting and harvesting of the crops,” said Urban League President & CEO Sadie M. Winlock in a news release.

Funding for the hoop house came from a $10,000 United States Department of Agriculture High Tunnel Initiative System. “High tunnels” are green houses that allow year-round farming. Other partners on the project are Metis Construction, the United Way of Summit County and Huntington National Bank.

In the early stages of the project, students will assist Metis Construction in building and designing the plant boxes for the hoop house. To select the appropriate crops to grow, and learn farming techniques and plant maintenance, students will work with Urban League Program Coordinators, the USDA and local organizations.

Friday’s ground breaking event was also a send-off for seven sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students in the Urban League STEAM program, who will spend the next two weeks at Central State University’s Seed to Bloom Ag-STEM Institute.

The Seed to Bloom program is an academic, residential camp where the students will explore the connection between agriculture and science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

According to Winlock, the Urban League is already in talks with the city to obtain more land for agricultural programs.

Mayor Dan Horrigan said community gardens by nature always expand, and the role of the city is to help in whatever way it can.

“I’m so proud of these kids to be able to attend the camp. To me, those are the things that are the most rewarding for kids, especially education through the summertime,” he said. “Keeping them involved and doing thing like this makes our community so much better and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”

Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro said the STEAM program is great for kids interested in science and math now, and will serve as a platform for future employment and success.

“We have such energy in our community right now,” she said. “As we come together and partner together we’re able to move our community not only forward but at a speed that makes a difference so these young folks really have opportunities that perhaps they didn’t have before.”

The Seed to Bloom program required test scores and other academic information be included with the student applications, in addition to individual essays, from applicants across Ohio.

According to Education Director Vickie Person, the Akron Urban League was the only entity in the state in which every student who applied was accepted to the summer camp.

Also, in the first year of the Urban League’s STEAM Academy, students are already showing improvements, she said.

“We are proud to announce that our students made gains as high as 25 points on their standardized test scores and 85 percent of our students are at or above proficiency on the MAC, measure of academic performance standardized tests,” Person announced.

The costs to attend the camp were provided by the Akron Urban League’s Board of Directors, Theresa Carter, Omnova Solutions Foundation, Alan Rothenbuecher, Benesch Law and Nicole Squire and Bridgestone Americas.

For more information about the Urban Farm Initiative, email the Akron Urban League.

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