The Council Ring


The Council Ring is an inviting place for children to gather. A circle is a shape that includes everyone and makes everyone equal. Children organized in a circle can see everyone’s face at the same time. Our Council Ring at PS84 is to encourage friendship, discussions, and peace.

A History of Council Rings

The Council Ring was the signature piece in many gardens designed by Jens Jensen, a mid-western garden Designer in Chicago in the early to mid 1900’s who collaborated with Frank Lloyd Wright and began the Prairie School of Landscape Design. He developed the theory of the Council Ring for many public parks and private estates.

If the Council Ring sounds like a Native American fire circle, it is because Jensen took his inspiration from the spiritual and ceremonial gathering places of the Plains Indians. In history, a circular gathering place around an open fire also goes back to the early tribal rituals of many other cultures.

The council ring was meant to inspire conversation, storytelling, drama, and even traditional singing around the campfire. In Jensen’s words from his book Siftings:

“In this friendly circle around the fire, [a person] becomes himself. Here there is no social caste. All are on the same level, looking each other in the face. A ring speaks of friendship and strength and is one of the great symbols of mankind.”

Here at PS84, we agree with Jensen’s passion for council rings and preserving native plants and habitat in our garden. Our very own garden designer, Paige Keck, believes that children need to interact with the natural world, in order to understand their place in it. She designed this garden for our children, where they can touch and learn, sit with friends in the Council Ring, and interact with the natural world. She chose native plants to enhance their experience, and understand their natural habitat. Jensen said and Paige agrees,

“A garden, to be a work of art, must have the soul of the native landscape in it.”

Do you think that our garden is a work of art? Please let us know in the comments.


The Making of the Interactive Musical Garden


The 91st Street Musical Interactive Garden has recently reopened its gate with a new set of musical instruments surrounded by new plant life. It is now a beautiful soundscape enjoyed by our children — to learn, to express, and to inspire. How did it all come together?

The installation was not an easy feat, but a joyful effort shared by many. The garden that we see today was a result of a total of 40 work hours that entailed digging 30” deep holes, pouring concrete, stabilizing and leveling each instrument to set in the earth, as well as embedding 20 plants.

It was made possible by the collective work of 16 people spearheaded by no other than Ms. Sherri Sanford-Semon. We are also very grateful to Michel Zamojski who worked for 18 months to win a grant from Lowe’s to make this possible. So, Lowe’s deserves a big thank you as well.

There’s more to be done. We invite our community at PS 84 to discover and get to know our new garden. See what can be improved and be a part of this and other activities that make our gardens an integral part of our amazing school.

Pitch in! After all, to create a beautiful musical garden takes an orchestra of people working harmoniously together.

PS84 Fifth Graders Back in ROOT Camp

PS 84 is set to launch the second season of ROOT Camp, our nutritional intensive studies program for 5th graders.  With tasteful thanks to Ample Table for Everyone who funded the program in its pilot year, we are proud to begin our second season on November 17th, now generously funded by parents through our PTA.

ROOT Camp is a series of ten lessons for 5th graders that teaches them about food, nutrition, and their own health.  This culminates the learning done in the PS84 garden in grades K -4th, where children grow vegetables and herbs, harvest, and enjoy.  ROOT Camp is the final step in this journey, bringing together the garden, science, and health curriculums; and empowering children to make educated choices while developing their own eating habits.  As 5th graders are getting ready for middle school, learning how to take care of themselves, nourish themselves, and make good choices throughout the peer pressure years, we are glad to send them off after a year of ROOT Camp.  Yes, they will be ready!

In the first lesson, after a detailed survey of how they currently eat and how they view food, kids will be challenged to look at snacks in a different way.  Get rid of the bag, and make your own good snacks.

Making Popcorn Nourishing

They will make their own popcorn, and adorn it with different hand blends of fragrant herbs and spices.  Want to do this at home?  Click here for recipe and information on page 24:

Check back every month for each ROOT Camp Recipe!

Share the Health.

Tasting Tray

 This course was developed and implemented through the generous foundation support of Ample Table for Everyone (ATE), a non-profit working to fund solutions that feed a growing population of food insecure families in New York City. Learn more at


PS 84 Becomes A Certified Monarch Waystation!

PS 84 has been declared a certified Monarch Waystation by Monarch Watch. Monarch Watch is a nonprofit education, conservation, and research program based at the University of Kansas that focuses on the monarch butterfly, its habitat, and its spectacular fall migration. garden

Monarch waystations provide milkweeds, nectar plants and shelter for monarchs throughout their annual cycle of reproduction and migration. By creating and maintaining our Monarch Waystation, PS 84 is contributing to monarch conservation and helping to support the continuation of monarch migration in Nclassroomorth America.

Our waystation designation was the culmination of our PS 84 Monarch Garden program, which was funded  by a grant from the Wild Ones Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education program. Through the program, last spring our kindergarten classes learned all about monarchs and got to watch their very own classroom monarch larva transform from caterpillar to chrysalis and butterfly.

The monarch learning experience included a variety of activities ranging from daily journaling and danceart projects to reading about monarchs and choreographing a dance about the life cycle of monarchs as part of New York City Center Encores dance program.

The highlight of the program was seeing the monarchs emerge from their chrysalis.  One student exclaimed it was a “miracle” they would remember forever.   We are looking forward to bringing this “miracle” to more students this June.  Our kindergarten classes will once again raise classroom caterpillars and our older students will also have the chance to observe the monarchs in our science lab.

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Earth Day Butterfly Garden Planting!

earth day butterfly planting

On Saturday April 27th,  PS84 families joined forces with Citizen’s Committee of New York City and Verizon’s Green Team Volunteers to transform an area of the Interactive Garden on 91st Street into: “The Butterfly Garden”.

A log was moved, pavers were installed, but best of all, 52 beautiful native plants from Glover Farms, LI were installed in their new home, the PS84 Butterfly Garden.  We planted: Milkweed, liatris, bee balm, black-eyed Susan, echinacea, silphium, little blue stem, and goldenrod (no, not the one that causes allergies!)  Come see!

With perfect weather on our side, it was a pleasure to be surrounded by such wonderful people, great kids, and a spring energy that inspires everyone to enjoy our little space of green in our asphalt saturated city.  Our Kindergarteners now have a real butterfly habitat to set free their butterflies; they are raising Painted Lady Butterflies now, and will be raising Monarch Butterflies in June. This fall, we hope to witness our butterfly habitat alive with caterpillars, chrysalis, and Monarchs.

A five year dream come true, our butterfly garden is now a reality.  A BIG thank you to Verizon Green Team and NYC Citizen’s Committee for their hard work and for funding this project.  Thank you to Paige Keck of Foras-Studios, our native species specialist and horticulturalist, for carefully choosing these perfect plants.  We are on our way to becoming a Monarch Way-station.

The sparrows that have taken home in Ms. Windeman’s birdhouses above the butterfly garden have a new front garden…..let’s hope they learn that caterpillars don’t taste so good!