Gardening at Rockdale

Posted April 14, 2022

  Cincinnati Zoo Brings Geurrilla Gardener to Avondale School to Inspire Students to Plant

Ron Finley and Zoo Horticulture Team Realize Vision for Urban Garden

CINCINNATI, OH (April 14, 2022) — Ron Finley, the self-proclaimed Gangsta Gardener from South Central LA, visited students at Rockdale Academy in Avondale this morning to talk about how the simple act of gardening can change the world and empower individuals. After a brief presentation in the school’s gym, students, teachers, parents and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s horticulture team got busy with the kids with hands on activities in the Urban Learning Garden that came to life last summer as part of the 2021 Avondale Community Makeover project.

“Ron shines when he is talking to young people.  He’s passionate about changing lives and sparking ideas for doing that with gardening,” said Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard.  “The real magic happens when he gets in the garden with them.”

The Zoo, and students from its own on-site high school (Zoo Academy), set up 5 hands-on work stations in the garden and gave kids the opportunity to dig, plant, mulch, and enjoy the beautiful day!  Maynard manned a station where kids could taste the vegetables that are growing in the Urban Learning Garden.

“I had a ball. Talking to the kids and seeing their reactions, good and bad, to veggies that some were trying for the first time,” said Maynard. “It was heartwarming to look around and see students all over the garden, learning about pollinators and having fun in the dirt.  This is exactly what we envisioned for the garden.”

The Cincinnati Reds, P&G, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden join forces each year to transform communities.  In 2021, that community was Avondale.

Finley was in Cincinnati to speak at a botanical garden fundraising event at the Zoo and was thrilled to add a stop at the school to his visit.  He delivered the message that, “With gardening, I see an opportunity where we can train these kids to take over their communities, to have a sustainable life. And when we do this, who knows? We might produce the next George Washington Carver. But if we don’t change the composition of the soil, we will never do this.”

For more about Finley – Ted Talk – Ron Finley: A guerrilla gardener in South Central LA