How We Sprouted
In the fall of 2013, after feeling a math lesson for her first-grade students with Intellectual Disabilities did not meet their educational needs, our founder, Sonya Harris gathered a group of teachers together to plan a garden at the Dorothy L. Bullock Elementary School, which could be used to help children navigate math concepts through engagement with nature. Having no experience in gardening, Sonya contacted Celebrity Landscaper Ahmed Hassan via social media for help and advice. Not only did he respond to her message a few hours later, but he also advised her and the teachers on what was needed to establish a sustainable school garden.
As Ahmed helped Sonya learn all of the aspects of working the earth & the importance of gardening with children, Sonya began to notice the lack of fresh and healthy food her students were eating for lunch and became passionate that the garden include fresh food to feed the children and families of the Glassboro community.
After a year of Ahmed's intensive tutelage on all things gardening, he connected Sonya & the team of teachers with local South Jersey landscape designer, Mike Pasquarello of Elite Landscaping in Berlin, NJ. Connected by wanting to create an edible foodscape, after almost a year of planning, building partnerships with landscape and horticultural experts from across the country, sponsored donations, and fundraising efforts, the Bullock Elementary Children's Garden became a reality the weekend of May 2-3, 2015.
After the build, Sonya began assisting teachers in new ways to implement garden-based learning into the curriculum as well as developed garden clubs and programs at the school. She coordinated weekend maintenance led by the school's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade students who harvested food that was served in the cafeteria for lunch. Sonya's method of implementing child-led garden planning and inclusion of fresh-picked food.
This caught the attention of educators and administrators across the state of New Jersey who began approaching Sonya for assistance in helping other schools build and incorporate learning gardens. This is when Sonya had the idea to form a nonprofit to help other educators accept donations.
In October 2016, The Bullock Children's Garden and Sonya were awarded the very first “Best in New Jersey” Jersey Fresh Farm-to-School Award by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture for her drive in ensuring that the Bullock Children’s Garden serves as a tool for assisting teachers in teaching children across the curriculum through garden education, provides free, fresh, organic produce to the local low-income community, where the school is located (helping to eliminate a food desert) and for partnering with several organizations and green industry leaders to ensure successful learning opportunities for the Bullock Elementary students. She also runs an after-school club for at-risk children, teaching them the value of gardening, growing their own food, caring for the earth, and using interaction with nature to reduce feelings of frustration, anger, and depression.
She loves spending time gardening at home and with the children at the school garden. Sonya is also currently leading the expansion of the garden education initiative throughout the Glassboro School District and with the Borough of Glassboro to increase sustainability awareness and Green initiatives. She is currently mentoring several schools across the United States, Australia, and South Africa, assisting them in creating school gardens.
In 2017 Sonya established the nonprofit The Bullock Garden Project, Inc. The role of this nonprofit is to assist schools serving large populations of students who are at-risk, receiving special education services, and/or low-income and food insecurity with establishing and implementing school gardens. She has won several awards, including the most recent awards: New Jersey Agricultural Society’s Learning Through Gardening 2018 Teacher of the Year, and
Project Green Schools 2018 Outstanding Green Education Program Director.