The Cleveland Public School's tract garden program was one of the most successful and innovative programs of the school system. The organization and beauty of the gardens attracted horticulture educators from all over the United States, South America, and as far away as Japan. From its humble beginnings in 1904 as a project to beautify vacant lots in Cleveland, it grew into an educational tool that taught thousands of children the respect for nature and its bounty. At the tract gardens' height, the amount of land under cultivation in the middle of the Cleveland urban landscape approached 100 acres. By 1970, there were 27 horticultural centers servicing all Cleveland schools. Centers were located next to schools, in housing estates, at fairgrounds, at a home for the aged, and on museum property. A few of the centers are now neighborhood gardens. The photographs in Cleveland School Gardens show that the Cleveland Public Schools knew the importance of being "green" 100 years before it was politically fashionable.
Author Bio: Joel Mader is a retired Cleveland Public School (now Cleveland Municipal Schools) English teacher and freelance writer. He was a summer instructor at Dunham Tavern Museum tract garden on the east side of Cleveland.
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