Once a week at Harlem Middle School, a group of students give their brains a rest and exercise their green thumbs.
The Harlem Junior Garden Club meets each Tuesday at the school to practice the art and science of horticulture.
At their most recent meeting, about 15 of the club's 50 members met to plant pansies in heart-painted yogurt cups to give away to teachers at Harlem Middle on Valentine's Day.
"With it as chilly as it is outside right now, I thought this would be a good project for them, and I'm all about teacher appreciation," said Lori Kamariotis, an eighth-grade teacher at Harlem Middle and garden club sponsor.
On warmer weeks, students will weed a small garden at the school, trim hedges and even pick up litter on the school grounds, Kamariotis said.
"We do almost all of the work around the school," Kamariotis said. "That's one of the big benefits of the club - instilling a sense of school pride."
Kamariotis founded the club last school year to give students an alternative activity and provide a constructive means to occupy their time between projects.
"Soccer season started today, so I lost a lot of my members to that," she said. "But basketball just ended, so I'm getting some of them back.
"That's kind of the way it works. Students come by when they need another activity to fill their time."
Many of the club members chatted about their day, school, teachers and other teen topics as they transferred potting soil from a bag to the yogurt cups.
"I like gardening, but I like coming here and talking to my friends," said Brooke Dean, a 15-year-old eighth-grader at Harlem Middle.
Zane Dickens, another eighth-grader, joined the garden club when it formed and said he enjoys working with his hands.
"I like to water things," he said. "I know that's weird, but I like it."
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