Phillis Wheatley students returned to an expanded garden footprint this fall, thanks to a huge community effort led by Edible Schoolyard New Orleans Network Garden Manager, Emily Neustrom.

“Cheers to our great partners and friends in creating the beautiful new outdoor classrooms and gardens in the Treme neighborhood,” said Emily.

She named the collaboration of Eskew Dumez Ripple (EDR), the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, New Orleans Town Gardeners, Uncommon Construction NOLA, David Barbier & Ryan Gootee General Contractors, CW Harvey LLC, dba Urban Canopy, New Orleans Glass, and Nola Woodworks, as essential to making the project a reality. The garden work days we had this past summer (pictured) resulted in a true garden transformation!

EDR designed the garden space as part of their Martin Luther King Day Service Project in 2019, using input from students as young as Kindergarten. The new Wheatley garden footprint responds to school community aspirations for a more comprehensive and inclusive ESYNOLA seed-to-table learning space, supporting garden educators Charlotte Steele, Marlena Nip, and Brian Tomé in adding garden classes for middle schoolers to their current PK-4 schedule.

The new outdoor education pavilions not only protect young learners from weather elements, but also divert rainwater to rain barrels to irrigate the one-quarter acre garden. With the newly-trenched levee created by Brian Tomé, students enjoy crossing a small wooden bridge over native Louisiana plants and seasonal produce.

Emily Neustrom says, “The garden’s rounded garden beds and unexpected elements encourage students to pause as they wander, and be surprised by what’s around the corner.”

The redesign reflects ESYNOLA’s commitment to creating beautiful spaces that encourage wonder, while creating a shaded and safe learning space for even the hottest months and during light rain days. 

The new garden builds on 2015 support by the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s Environmental Fund to pilot a 3rd grade afterschool water literacy curriculum. Over the years, the water education programming expanded to include 4th graders across FirstLine’s four PK-8 schools, exposing 300 children to hands-on science and engineering through school meteorological stations, and laying the foundation for middle school curricula. Wheatley’s new middle school classes will foster student leadership, scientific discovery, and curiosity around future STEM careers. With this garden expansion, we anticipate a 50% increase in food production, 25% increase in class offerings, and 50% increase in family events, thanks to visionary programming and fundraising by our ESYNOLA and FirstLine team, and collaboration with our community partners.