Little Green Thumbs: Gardening with MLK Jr. Elementary

photo credit: Rachel KramerWould you rather stay in the office on a Friday or join a fun bunch of elementary school students in planting flowers? The choice was easy for me!

As part of last Friday’s National Day of Service, I–together with a crew of my fellow staff from National Wildlife Federation–spent the morning gardening with students at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary in Washington DC.

In addition to being part of the National Day of Service, NWF was also participating in Green the Block –a national event organized by Green For All and the Hip Hop Caucus, focused on helping low-income communities of color become leaders in the clean energy movement.

With rain pouring down that morning, we were a little apprehensive about the idea of digging and planting, but as the kids got more revved up inside with great speakers and a round of nature jeopardy, the rain subsided and we were excited to start. photo credit: Rachel Kramer

Armed with spades and gloves (four sizes too big), the students dug right into their planting projects–clearing plots, planting bushes and flowers, and spreading mulch around the school garden.

When their teacher told them it was time to come inside, they whined, “but we’re just starting to have fun!” Their energy was contagious.

Most students told us they didn’t have gardens at home and this opportunity to plant at their school was their only exposure to gardening. Sure, they tracked in a lot of mud as they filed inside for lunch, but they were beaming with pride over their new plot.

To wrap up our morning adventure, Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president of the Hip Hop Caucus, stopped by to thank us for helping connect the school with nature. As a child who was encouraged to play in the dirt, it was my pleasure.

“Rev” (as he likes to be called) pointed out how it’s this generation of students who will have to face the effects of global warming.They will have to lead their communities from projects as simple as planting an urban garden to ones as complex as transitioning to new clean energy sources. NWF’s Fair Climate Project shares the goal of getting youth in underserved communities to engage in climate change solutions and adaptations.

If you participated in a Green the Block or a National Day of Service event last week, be sure to let us know! You can enter a photo into the Fair Climate Project’s photo contest to show how you’re working toward climate solutions in your community.

To learn more about NWF’s efforts to connect kids with nature visit