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Quick Pick: City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan

Do you ever walk past an empty lot in your neighborhood or city and think: “what a waste of space”? Are there ever times when you wish you could do more for your community, but don’t know how?

By Claire Culton, STEM Read Intern

Do you ever walk past an empty lot in your neighborhood or city and think: “what a waste of space”? Are there ever times when you wish you could do more for your community, but don’t know how? These are the exact thoughts of our little protagonist Marcy in City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan

When Marcy notices an old building being torn down by where she lives in the city, she decides to transform the space into something beautiful, a community garden. With the help of her friends and neighbors, Marcy sets out to plant a vibrant garden in the once dull lot. Some of the neighborhood “sour grapes” tell Marcy to give up her dream of creating a garden in the city, but she does not let that stop her from growing something great. Marcy shows her friends that everyone has something to contribute to the garden, and that their teamwork and community is what makes it so remarkable. As the garden flourishes, Marcy’s naysayers come to realize that there is something very special in enjoying a little city green.

Marcy and her friends also find ways to use recycled material to help build the garden. For example, they use old coffee cans for potted flowers, and utilize leftover paint from one of their neighbor’s houses to decorate the plant beds. Children can bring simple materials from home and engineer ways that those things can be used to grow a garden at school or even at home. This kind of hands-on learning teaches sustainable living, the reward of growing your own food, and the benefits of friendship and inclusion.

After reading this book, implementing Marcy’s project will be easy and fun for students of all ages and abilities! Introduce kids to the many benefits and possibilities of urban farming in your community. You may be surprised to see how many local initiatives there are to encourage farming. Right here in DeKalb we have “Communiversity Gardens” throughout the NIU campus. With five locations, these gardens provide a plethora of plants and opportunities for students to get hands-on gardening experience. During the semester, the gardens have both full-time and volunteer staff.  They are always accepting of people wanting to learn more about what they do.

When the neighborhood or classroom can band together to create something useful and beautiful, even sour grapes can turn sweet.