“Something I really like about garden class is seeing the animals, and planting seeds, and growing fruits, and watering plants,” said Markiaj Tero when asked about his experiences in garden class. 

Markiaj is a 5th grader at Langston Hughes Academy who has been growing food and helping care for Dreamkeeper Garden animals since he was in kindergarten. Garden is helping Markiaj to develop leadership and social skills.

“I made a lot of new friends in garden [class]. And all my friends love garden as much as I love it… This is the only class when you get to come outside, and take a breath of the fresh air, and see animals, and grow plants.” 

For students who are new or unfamiliar with the garden, Markiaj is the perfect tour guide. 

“He brings people out to the garden to show them spaces he loves,” said Markiaj’s garden teacher, Mr. Durham. “He’s a helping hand for kids who struggle, modeling good behavior and calmness with animals.”

Markiaj imagines passing on his knowledge to new kindergartners:

“I would tell them, respect the plants always. And I’d teach them how to grow plants, pick plants, and water plants, and how to feed the animals. I’d tell them they might feel peaceful in the garden because they can smell the fresh air.” 

Langston Hughes Academy garden education team is starting an internship program for Middle School students, and Markiaj will be one of the first students to participate. Mr. Durham says, “While he could do complex gardening jobs himself, it’ll be better to use his time in the garden to let him be a role model and leader for classes of younger kids, because he can so easily connect with them and model to them.” 

His teachers have so many lovely stories about Markiaj over the years. Let’s conclude with this one from Mr. Durham:

“His imagination is exciting too. For awhile when he was younger, Markiaj really wanted to be a cowboy. When he was walking into the garden with class, he would give me a silent signal when we were passing a plum tree, take the imaginary lasso off his imaginary horse and ‘park’ the horse at that tree. That’s where he’d put his horse during garden class. It’s a funny anecdote, but the point is: garden class allows Markiaj to feel safe being exactly who he is, and that’s awesome.

Markiaj, when he was first interviewed for a student portrait in first grade.