Bonnie Smith presents Bethlehem Children's School with $1,000 science education grant // Photo submitted
The Bethlehem Garden Club (BGC) recently granted $1,000 to Bethlehem Children’s School (BCS) to enable them to beautify and enhance their outdoor nature trails and improve their environmental science curriculum.
“It’s a different type of school,” said Bonnie Smith, the BGC member who presented the check to the school on Jan. 31. “They do spend a lot of time out-of-doors and have a very hands-on curriculum.”
A local institution for decades, BGC raises money at an annual plant sale and garden tour every summer — last June was the 20th anniversary of the event — and then accepts grant applications from local elementary and middle school teachers interested in enhancing their environmental science curriculums.
“We read through them and see whether we think they’re a practical application of the money,” said Smith, noting that BCS has received funds from BGC in the past. One year, she said, they received grant funding to build a greenhouse out of recycled plastic liter bottles in conjunction with General Electric; another year, they received funding to run electricity to that greenhouse.
“[BCS] would like to focus on maintaining and improving our nature trails to allow us to craft our outdoor education program for all students,” Smith read aloud from the winning grant application. “We plan to do this in two stages. One, maintaining the safety and integrity of our current trail; two, integrating additional learning tools along the trail to support our outdoor education and science curriculum in the classrooms.”
Thanking BGC on their website and Facebook page, BCS officials wrote, “The trails on our campus will improve this spring and continue to provide many more lessons in outdoor education.”
A second BGC grant, $800, has been gifted to the Bethlehem Historical Association to create native-to-New-York gardens around the historic Cedar Hill Schoolhouse on River Road in Selkirk, where BGC holds its annual Christmas tea.
In addition to the June fundraiser and subsequent bestowing of grant monies, BGC works to maintain five gardens around town, including one at Town Hall and another on Route 9W entering Bethlehem, said Smith. “If the community needs something that is in our realm to do, we always try to help out in some way.”
The club holds meetings on the second Wednesday of every month at Bethlehem Public Library, where they host speakers, typically from somewhere like the Landis Arboretum or Cornell Cooperative Extension, to lecture on topics such as gardening in a changing climate, pest control or native New York plant species.
BGC members can be as active as they choose to be, said Smith, who was unable to give a definitive number of enrolled members but said that all are women. “All ages,” she said, “but, all women. It’s not that men can’t join — I guess we’ve just scared them off.”
Anyone interested in joining can contact BGC through their website or show up at a meeting. Additionally, Smith said, anyone who has a garden that they would like included in the annual garden tour is welcome to contact BGC and sign up. This year the tour and plant sale will take place on Wednesday, June 14. In past years, she noted, most participants have ended up joining BGC.
“They come and see what the meetings are like,” said Smith. “And the people. And they keep coming back.”