There is a garden in North Braddock where children can play Tetris with plants, and that's just the tip of the iceberg lettuce. Gardweeno
, an interactive children's community garden space at 1014 Bell Ave. is working to intergrate technological learning into plant life, according to co-founder and artist Lindsey Scherloum.
"We are adding digital components to the garden through the use of Arduino
," Scherloum says, explaining Arduino is a microcontroller that allows computers to sense and control more of the physical world than a desktop computer could.
Arduino will allow sensors in the garden to function as barometers, check the plant's Ph balance and most importantly, serve as teaching tools for children. The garden also has software called Makey Makey
that can turn any conducting object into a button, and that's how the kids are able to play Tetris by touching the leaves of plants.
Scherloum explains,"Our idea was to introduce digital literacy through the garden and use open source computer programing to implement additional observation tools."
The idea to add computer components to the garden came after Scherloum's project parter, Zena Ruiz, discovered artists and makers were using tiny programable Arduinos to make magic happen in ordinary environments. The pair realized that when kids in the neighborhood were not outside, they spent most of their time playing computer games at their local library, and decided that introducing kids to computer literacy early was particularly important. The women, who are neighbors in North Braddock, thought it would be cool to use the computer tools "to quantify the qualitiative observations they made in the garden," Scherloum says.
As unusual as it may seem to intergrate technology into a garden, where things get hot, wet and dirty, Scherloum says the idea to garden with local kids happened somewhat naturally.
"All these kids on our block between the ages of 10 and 14 would come up to us and say 'we are bored, can we help you in your garden,'" Scherloum says.
So she and Ruiz obliged and created programming for them. Around 14 kids are now garden regulars and participate in Gardweeno's summer programs. The kids who came to the garden lived two blocks on either side of it, Scherloum says, explaining that the garden helped kids understand that they can make an impact on their small stomping ground. With funding from the aptly named Sprout Fund and support from North Braddock Cares and the Borough of North Braddock, Gardweeno will offer afterschool programing from 4PM to 6PM on Mondays and Wednesdays through October 26.
Scherloum says the program is open to all kids, but asked that kids who aren't coming from the North Braddock area BYOP—bring your own parent. Scherloum is looking for adults who might be interested in working on the technological aspects of the garden as well as others who might want to spend time hanging out in a garden with a bunch of kids. The garden is currently growing tomatoes, kale, green beans, herbs, cherries, radishes, beets, onions, asparagus---and possibly a future generation of high-tech farmers.