Monday, May 27, 2024

For 20 years, CitySprouts has helped Cambridge children engage with the natural world in which we all live. CitySprouts Garden Educators partner with Cambridge classroom teachers to deepen elementary students’ science knowledge by exploring the school garden. We run a summer and after-school program for middle school youth to teach them growing skills and help them become environmental stewards of their community. Since 2001, CitySprouts has gotten children learning outside. Thousands of Cambridge schoolchildren have grown up learning science from the garden. More than 650 middle schoolers have gone through our summer program or after-school leadership club. Now, after more than a year of disruption that has affected families unequally, we at CitySprouts are called to do more to make our out-of-school time program more accessible to youth with fewer material resources.

In our 2021 summer program, we are prioritizing places at our summer program sites for those Cambridge youth who have fewer opportunities for summer learning. Though not prerequisites for joining our program, we give priority to applicants of color, youth who qualify for free/reduced lunch, whose primary/home language is not English, who come from a single-parent household and youth who have experienced some form of deep stress in the family.

Hundreds of young people and their siblings and cousins have gone through our summer program since 2007. CitySprouts taught them how to grow a garden, how to cook. We helped them care for and make connections to the natural world in their city neighborhoods. We celebrate each of these young people’s contributions to making our neighborhood, indeed our whole world, a better and greener place for all.

We recognize this shift in our selection process will limit access for some families for whom CitySprouts’ summer program has been a seminal experience. We are motivated by the out-of-school time equity gap in Cambridge that’s based on income, ZIP code, race and culture. The pandemic brought to the fore neighborhood disparities in community health, educational resources and access to nature. We are choosing to make CitySprouts’ summer program more available to youth who have fewer chances of learning outside in the summer, where a CitySprouts garden may be the only opportunity they have to plant and grow. We are making the choice to prioritize the CitySprouts Young Leaders Program for young people with fewer connections to the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

CitySprouts’ 2021 summer will be an in-person program focused on growing, exploring the garden and engineering solutions to problems that arise in communities. In CitySprouts summer program, youth learn firsthand about sustainability by growing and caring for a garden. They learn the science behind the growing and are introduced to STEM professionals and further learning opportunities in those areas.

We’ll take walking field trips to explore what sustainability looks like where we live.

All of us at CitySprouts recognize that every young person needs these experiences. We are eager to help families who aren’t selected for our summer program to find other, wonderful summer opportunities for their children. We are committed to cultivate wonder for all Cambridge youth, of every background. Information about CitySprouts’ summer program can be found at

Jane Hirschi, executive director of CitySprouts