EJ Autism Foundation In The News:

A Garden of Inspiration

Assisted by volunteers, the third annual “Grounds for Change” gardens were planted at East Islip Middle School earlier this summer, sponsored by the EJ Autism Foundation, a local organization that continually works to benefit special needs children.

Grounds for Change consists of over a dozen organic garden beds housing a variety of vegetables and herbs donated by Bonnie Farms and Father Nature’s Garden Center. The gardens were planted by East Islip School District students with disabilities and maintained by East Islip Middle School family and consumer science teacher Patricia Emmons-Fritz.

“These school gardens are not just our outside classrooms, but serve as a terrific way to bring people together,” said Linda J. Rozzi, East Islip’s superintendent of schools. “Just seeing these students take ownership of garden cultivation every week during the summer months is inspiring.”

“The Grounds for Change gardens were inspired by our children in the district with disabilities who grow in so many ways with the right support and services,” explained EJ Autism founder Bea Huste-Petersen. “Ideally, we have typical children paired with our kids with disabilities, certainly during the planting phase. Over the summer, the students work with teachers and their aides in weeding, watering and spraying soapy water to ward off bugs. Vegetables that are grown are donated locally, and during the school year, the kids in our life skills program practice their cooking skills. Over time, we would like to see more children being paired with our kids, modeling behavior so that we can grow together.”

“Our staff has made the program truly integrated, teaching our students about environmental awareness and life skills,” added Rozzi. “They have worked hard in building an effective and engaging way to integrate curriculum and meet learning standards, giving our young people the chance to develop a wide range of social skills while having them enjoy our natural spaces right here on campus.”

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