Rooftop Garden Feeds the Minds of Students

Source: Facebook (Used with Permission)

Atop the century-old edifice that encompasses the corner of Main and East McMillan Streets in historic Over-The-Rhine sits a robust urban green space, the Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden.  The garden is used as an outdoor classroom, providing a unique learning experience for students who attend Rothenberg Preparatory Academy. Activities Beyond the Classroom helps organizations, such as Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden, that are impacting the lives of Cincinnati Public School student in a variety of ways. As a result of our partnership with Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden, students are afforded the opportunity to learn where food comes from, their environment, and the vital role the students play in the preservation and conservation of our natural resources.

Reopened during the 2013-2014 school year, Rothenberg Preparatory Academy’s building was beautifully refurbished. Thanks to the generosity of the Over-The-Rhine Foundation, during the restoration the rooftop was converted into a garden. The rooftop space that currently houses the garden was once the school’s playground, with distinct space for both little boys and little girls. In 2016 Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden was designated as a 501c3 and the organization took over operations of the school community garden. Activities Beyond the Classroom helps support the Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden by acting as the garden’s fiscal agent, allowing the non-profit organization to employ the two part-time staff members who are responsible for the coordination of educational and volunteer activities.

Rooftop Garden Serves As an Outdoor Classroom

Students at Rothenberg Academy are involved in the plotting, planting, watering, tending, and harvesting activities in the garden. Additionally, the school is home to hydroponic tower gardens that allow the students to grow food throughout the year. The youngsters actively pollinate the hydroponically-grown plants by using paintbrushes to spread pollen from one plant to the next.

Teachers utilize the outdoor classroom to enrich the lessons taught in the subject areas of science, mathematics, social studies, and language arts. “It is not just about feeding people,” advised Sara Storjohann, President of Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden. “Our goal is to expand the children’s knowledge of the world around them.” Through their use of the garden, students learn life skills such as food preparation and how to use herbs to season food, in an effort to reduce salt intake. The students also learn about the symbiotic relationship between plants and living things such as worms, bees, and butterflies, all of which consider the rooftop garden to be their home.

Cultivating Students Into Responsible Citizens

Another learning opportunity provided by the rooftop garden is its ability to teach youngsters about sharing and being responsible citizens.  These lessons are designed to reinforce the premise that everyone has something to share.  The surplus of food produced in the garden is given to the school community (students and their families) to take home, helping to address the food dessert that plagues urban communities such as Over-The-Rhine.

During the summer months, Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden hires 11 to 14 year olds who are current and past students from Rothenberg Preparatory Academy to work as interns in the garden. The student interns are required to apply, and interview for the position. In addition to extensive hands-on learning about gardening, the student interns gain employment skills by being required to dress for the job, arrive on time and work in teams. Student interns also learn about entrepreneurship and future employment opportunities that can lead them to a variety of career paths. “We want to ensure they have every single opportunity to succeed in life and follow their own natural path,” stated Storjohann.

The Future of Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden

Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden is actively looking to increase the number of volunteers who can work with the student in the garden. The goal of this initiative is to break the students down into smaller learning groups in an effort to increase learning outcomes for the students. If you would like to volunteer at the Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden please contact, Bryna Bass at to learn how you can help the students achieve academic success, increase their self-confidence and self-esteem while strengthening their relationship and communication skills.

Activities Beyond the Classroom supports organizations by providing much-needed resources including Human Resource services, Fiscal Sponsorship, and much more.  We are always looking for new and innovative ways to help improve the outcome for CPS students by supporting organizations that do the most good. To learn more about partnership opportunities, please contact ABC at (513) 281-9870.