2011-05-13 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

KidsmART, Renewal And ‘Black Gold’


Caption: Annie Hauck-Lawson and Park Ranger John Daskalakis introduce RAA’s kidsmART children to composting in Fort Tilden. Caption: Annie Hauck-Lawson and Park Ranger John Daskalakis introduce RAA’s kidsmART children to composting in Fort Tilden.

Annie Hauck-Lawson continues an unbroken line of four generations of farmers, gardeners, fishermen, foragers, and composters. A family that harvests the bounty of earth and sea and returns the favor by recycling, and renewing the sources of that bounty. For her these pursuits are not just a vocation, not just an avocation, they are a passion and a way of life. Another passion of Hauck-Lawson’s is Rockaway where the Brooklyn native spent much of her youth, in and among the bungalows of Breezy Point (“summers of wonder”). Her romance with Rockaway, the ocean and its spiritual and nutritional yield has continued into adulthood. In a happy confluence of these two passions, recently the children and adults of RAA’s kidsmART after-school program were fortunate enough to have Hauck give a composting workshop for them at their Fort Tilden location. This was a perfect fit for a program which stresses projects that teach environmentalism, recycling and renewing the land and ocean which surrounds it in the beautiful setting of a seaside urban national park.

The environmental impact of composting is enormous. Once food has been produced, gathered and prepared, instead of the waste (including kitchen and yard scraps such as fruit peels and dried leaves that still contain their precious natural nutrients) going out of the natural cycle to a landfill, perhaps carted out of state, it is turned into a “renewable resource, and something that is very balanced with nature,” explains Hauck-Lawson. This “black gold,” as she calls the product of composting, is a far superior soil conditioner than are chemical fertilizers. Compost slow-releases its nutrients into the soil and is therefore much more sustainable than the fast-release chemicals.

Hauck-Lawson has excellent credentials in the field of urban agriculture. The former associate professor of Health and Nutrition Science at Brooklyn College is co-editor of “Gastropolis: Food and New York City” and the author of the websites, brooklynmompostcompost.com and foodvoice.net. She is the “guide” in several thorough, easy-to-follow compost education videos she made with their producer, Jeff Samaha, that can be found at http:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUSop21L rql.

Hauck had been asked by a member of the community garden at Fort Tilden to help with the design and construction of a compost bin. Supervisory Park Ranger John Daskalakis, Ranger Thaddeus, Ranger Steve and Steve and John Jambeck all participated in the building of the bins. Indeed, they were able to gather discarded and, what Hauck calls, “repurposed” materials for the bin construction, in yet another ode to recycling, so that the entire three-bin system cost about $2.00. After construction,

Hauck offered to return to do a composting workshop with the children of kidsmART, which she did on April 14.

For a number of the children, the idea of composting was a new concept that was introduced to them for the first time, says Hauck. She brought kitchen scraps, straw, leaves and tools used to dig into, aerate and circulate the piles of materials as they progress in their cycle toward becoming “black gold.” She taught the children the best materials to put into a bin. Daskalakis framed the advice in such a way that it made the process very inviting and immediate for the children. Worms are often added to help break down the materials and Hauck was ‘tickled’ that the children were especially “smitten” with the little critters she brought. (In fact, Hauck says, “Worm castings [poop] is the highest quality of composting produced.”) But the children were exposed firsthand to the invaluable lessons of recycling and renewing the natural environment, which were constantly reinforced by what they saw, felt and handled. They were exposed to concepts of food waste and their re-use in gardening. To conclude and to tie the lessons of the day to the everyday lives of the kidsmARTers, they were invited to add their scraps from the program to the community garden bins, continuing their active participation in environmental renewal.

Rockaway Artists Alliance, Education Director Christine Mullally and Program Director Marina Callaghan thank Annie Hauck-Lawson for the invaluable lessons she gave to the children and adults of kidsmART. They also thank John Daskalakis, JBU Acting Unit Coordinator Rita Mullally, the National Park Service and all those who contributed to and made the workshop possible. RAA CONTACT INFO:

Phone: 718-474-0861; Fax: 718-474- 4373; e-mail: info@raa116.org; website: www.rockawayartistsalliance.org.

kidsmART corner

camp kidsmART: July 11-August 18, 2011; Monday-Thursday; new hours are 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Limited number of applications still available. For children who have completed kindergarten through grade 7. For more info including tuition rate contact RAA office. Once your child is registered for camp, camp packets will be available May 16 at the RAA office.

Fort Tilden Highlights

NEXT RAA EXHIBITS: “Tomorrow’s Art Today,” in sTudio 7, poses the question, “What is ‘modern art’ in the 21st century?” and “Nature,” in sTudio 6 invites artists to go wild and au naturelle (sort of). Dates: May 21-June 26. Opening reception: Sun., May 22 in sTudio 6, Fort Tilden, RoCA (Rockaway Center for the Arts). Gallery hours: Sat. and Sun. 12-4 p.m. and by appointment. Free admission to exhibit, reception and special events.

]HISTORICAL TOUR, RIIS PARK: Sat., May 14, Bernie Feuer will conduct an historical walking tour of Riis Park. Just meet him at the Bathhouse Visitor Center entrance at 1 p.m.

DON’T MISS FINAL WEEKEND ‘LEND ME A TENOR’: May 13, 14 @ 8 p.m.; May 15 @ 2 p.m. RTC, Post Theater, Ft. Tilden. Tix: 718-374-6400.

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