Wednesday, September 24, 2008

St. Nicholas Park Hosts First Bloom with the First Lady

First Lady Laura Bush watches as participants in the First Bloom project at Hamilton Grange National Memorial discover the different things -- from bugs to twigs -- that can be found when you shake the branches of a shrub. Photo taken Sept. 24, 2008.

By Mindi Rambo, NPS (National Parks Service)

Hamilton Grange National Memorial in Harlem, served as the backdrop on September 24 for the second First Bloom event in New York City. First Bloom is a National Park Foundation (NFP) program that connects children to national parks through planting and gardening projects.

First Lady Laura Bush, NPF Honorary Chair, took a tour of the Grange, which moved June 7, and received a briefing on the historic building’s restoration from Stephen Spaulding, the National Park Service’s chief of architectural preservation division for the northeast region.

Mrs. Bush joined children from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harlem and local schools on the grounds below the house and talked with them at a variety of “stations” where the children were learning about different aspects of gardening. At one table, she saw how they had planted seedlings in compostable pots. Kneeling next to the students at another station, Mrs. Bush took a keen interest in what they discovered when the shook a shrub and sorted what fell onto a tarp – mostly bark and insects. She also heard about their plans, which for one boy means growing up to become an architect.

“[First Bloom’s] a way to connect kids to their parks, their closest national park. And this, the Alexander Hamilton house behind us, is one of our national historic sites,” Mrs. Bush said. “And this neighborhood is going to get to watch while this house is restored. … There’s a historical architect who’s working on it, so it will be historical restoration. And while they watch the house being restored the kids in the neighborhood, and other community members, are going to be involved in planning the site.”

First Bloom was launched in 2007 by Mrs. Bush at the NPF Leadership Summit.
The program provides children in urban environments with the opportunity to get their hands in the dirt and experience planting and gardening in their neighborhoods and our national parks. It is believed that these efforts will “plant the seeds” of conservation and environmental stewardship in the next generation. Program partners include the NPS, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and community organizations that serve children.

The previous First Bloom event in New York took place at Castle Clinton National Monument on April 21, 2008

First Lady Laura Bush (far left) watches as Stephen Spaulding, chief of architectural preservation division for the northeast region of the National Park Service, talks with Nicholas Irving, a student who wants to be an architect when he grows up. First Lady Laura Bush arranged the introduction, when she learned about Nicholas' career plans during First Bloom at Hamilton Grange National Memorial on September 24, 2008. Photo taken Sept. 24, 2008.

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