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When Seeds in the Middle began nearly a year ago, Public School 91 - the alma mater of renowned opera singer Beverly Sills and Brookyn Borough President Marty Markowitz - had had NO formal music programs for more than a decade, nor did its neighbor Public School 221. Neither Public School 91 nor Public School 221 had formal sports programs. PS 221 had NO in-house arts programs.

Now, both PS 91 and PS 221 have the Metropolitan Opera Guild teaching five classes once a week and partnerships with the New York City Ballet. On March 2, more than 40 children, some of whom had never left their Brooklyn neighborhoods, for the first time traveled to the Metropolitan Opera House to see “The Nose.”

Besides chorus, PS 91 has a new keyboard program for all kindergartners, plus early grade trips to Carnegie Hall. In March 2009, SEEDS brought in a focused keyboard program for PS 221, which now serves all kindergarten, first and second grade classes two times a week. It continues this year.

At both PS 221 and MS 394, also in Crown Heights, professional dance teacher, Jeff Edmond, conducted an eight-week residency. Administrators said the classes built community and spread joy among teachers and students.

At 394, an intensive math/art/architecture program for more than 60 seventh-graders offered both professional training for the teacher and resulted in four students being awarded summer scholarships for further training.

At least 50 staff members in four schools serving low-income, minority communities plagued by obesity and diseases have received professional development training in healthy school food, and integrating environmental education, gardening and health into the school day from New York University, Cornell University and others. None had gardens before.

Last winter, the Crown Heights community at Public School 91 and Public School 221 had no soccer programs and sporadic afterschool sports or physical fitness opportunities even though a football-sized Parks Department field was nearby. Now, more than 300 children and parents in the Crown Heights/Wingate community now play soccer during the school day and after-school, coached by professional coaches. For the first time, parents and caregivers are being trained as soccer coaches. At PS 91, the sports program sparked teachers to create cheerleading and basketball teams. March marked the entry of the NYC Roadrunners ‘Mighty Milers’ program. Hundreds of children with faculty for the first time will be running daily during the school day, earning awards for their participation and the chance to compete in citywide track meets.
  Everyone in PS 91, its 800 students plus staff, will be growing plants, including edible gardens inside the classroom, through the generous donations of Home Depot. Twenty-five students began the outdoor garden last June with fourth grade teacher Natasha Rodriguez. Children paint the indoor growing tables custom-built by Home Depot for every class in the building so every child gets a chance to grow and learn where food comes from. Classes are planting herbs, flowers, vegetables and plan to cook pizza, salsa, salads and more from their crops!

School chefs are creating nutritious, tasty menus. Nearly all of the students at PS 91 and PS 221 depend on school for breakfast and lunch, but not all will eat it. Since Seeds’ began, more than 100 new students at PS 91 actually asked to eat breakfast and lunch at school. See the recipe here that PS 91’s school chef team entered for a citywide culinary contest against some of the city’s finest chefs for the most delicious, healthy dish using school food sponsored by the James Beard Foundation and the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food

PS 91’s teachers and parents have formed a Hip2B Healthy Committee to fundraise; brainstorm ideas to engage parents and children; build their parent association and community and plan fun parties and activities to support healthier lifestyles and boost opportunities; and develop and integrate healthy lessons into the school day. Among our first events were cooking demonstrations and dinner parties hosted by professional chefs. We plan them every month.

Hundreds of children, faculty, parents and neighbors – including the senior center and nearby Jewish community – look forward to the Hip2B Healthy Market, buying produce and healthy snacks. Teachers are now integrating the market into lesson plans. Before children regularly bought sodas, chips and sweets from the nearby convenience store. Whole Foods Market and Y Water were the first to donate nutritious snacks to make them affordable. “Can you believe it? The bodega is lowering its candy prices to compete!” said PS 91 fourth-grade teacher Lucy Garcia.

Seeds in the Middle, PO Box 310752, Brooklyn, NY 11231  |  Phone: 917-697-3745  |  E-mail:

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