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Photo by Liz Ligon

Families on the High Line: Learning from Nature

By Courtney Epton | June 17, 2016

How do you use the High Line as a family? Is it a place to relax and reconnect? An opportunity to look closely at plants and animals in the heart of the city? A source of creativity?

The High Line inspires teachers, storytellers, and artists every day, and each month we are inviting them to share different ways families can learn together on the High Line.

Young scientists look for more than 1,000 worms in our worm bin during Make It Grow! on May 28, 2016.Liz Ligon

In our second blog post about our family activities, guest writer Courtney Epton from City Growers discusses the importance of learning about nature in the city.

At City Growers, we use urban agriculture to teach kids about where their food comes from, and why it matters. We revel in providing “firsts” for kids: a high schooler pulls her first carrot from the earth; a Pre-K student sees bees buzz from flower to flower just inches from her nose for the first time; a child steps out on a rooftop farm and thinks, If this is possible, then…

Like our friends at the High Line, we believe that nature in an urban setting has benefits beyond what the eye can see, from building a sense of community to fostering a sense of health and well-being. Once a month throughout the growing season, City Growers hosts free Family Farm Days at the Brooklyn Grange in Long Island City. Visiting families can pick up fresh veggies and explore the soil it came from, with educators at the ready with hands-on activities designed to engage the young mind and body!

We also believe in the power of doing! As Director of Education at City Growers and a former New York City public school teacher (I taught third grade on the Lower East Side for eight years), I will never forget the effect outdoor education had on my class in my final year of formal classroom education. My co-teacher and I brought our class to live and work on a dairy farm for a week through the Farms for City Kids program. Students who struggled with reading and math had no problem deciphering and calculating when caring for a newborn calf. The real-world application for their learning was tangible, immediate, and exciting! At City Growers, our aim is to give as many students as possible the chance to learn outdoors, in nature, while making connections to the classroom.

City Growers’ programs provide lasting experiences for urban youth from all across New York City. Interested in an unforgettable experience for your child’s summer? Summer workshops can be scheduled online today! Founded in 2011 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization, more than 22,000 students have participated in hands-on workshops on the farm, in the classroom and in school gardens. With backgrounds in education, farming, food advocacy and beekeeping, the City Growers team is passionate about sparking that point-of-no-return moment for kids. Where were you when you first realized your passion?

City Growers’ Farm Workshops invite urban youth to engage with urban agriculture through hands-on, experiential learning.

City Growers’ Honeybee Ed workshops are unique opportunities to help kids draw connections between the health of our environment and the health of our bodies.

City Growers’ After School Program (B.E.E.S.) invites kids to explore rooftop farming first-hand.

New York’s youngest checks in on our hens during a City Growers’ Farm Workshop.

Exploring the intricate world of the honeybee at the City Growers’ Family Farm Day at Brooklyn Grange in Long Island City.

Discovery at City Growers’ Family Farm Day at Brooklyn Grange in Long Island City.

Check out Friends of the High Line’s second Make It! Families event on Saturday, June 25 from 10:00 AM- 2:00 PM to see our worm bin and mobile garden in action. The following Make It! on July 23 will also feature more creatures: bees!


Major support for High Line Families comes from Deutsche Bank. This program is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council.

MetLife Foundation is a Supporting Sponsor of High Line Families.