Earth Day: Survivor Tree Seedlings Thrive at an NYC High School

  • April 22, 2022
  • Young trees in black plant holders against a bright blue sky
  • Branches of a tree, and some leaves, with a medallion that reads, "Survivor Tree"
  • Students and adults pet two brown horses, whose backs are visible

Members of our staff visited the John Bowne High School in Queens, where students in the agriculture program care for seedlings from the Survivor Tree and many different animals. 

A white llama seems to smile from a seated position in front of some fellow llamas and a fence

One of the very special hosts who greeted our team. 

Tucked behind John Bowne High School in the middle of a busy New York City neighborhood is a four-acre farm belonging to the school's agricultural program. In late March, several members of our Education and Community Affairs teams had the opportunity to visit the school in Flushing, Queens, to learn about its extraordinary agricultural program and unique connection to the Museum’s mission. 

As cities grow and change rapidly, agricultural programs like the one at John Bowne encourage students to interact with nature, consider the human impact on natural resources, and prepare participants for future professions in the field. On our recent visit, two seniors in the program, Cristian Gilces and Sofia Gualotuna, excitedly led us around the farm showing how students tend to plants in the school’s tree orchards, flower beds, crop fields, and greenhouse, and how they care for the animals in the poultry house and barn. As our staff learned, agricultural students regularly look after hundreds of chickens, learning how to collect and clean the eggs, while also gently taking care of the many flowers and crops growing in their greenhouses and fields. To support the program, students then sell these products in the school’s agricultural store and community farmers’ markets, or take them home to their families. 

Agricultural students are also responsible for the care and maintenance of other animals, such as guinea pigs, mice, miniature horses and donkeys, goats, and alpacas. Throughout our visit, Cristian and Sofia encouraged our interaction with these animals, allowing us to experience the connection students feel to them. Looking to the future of urban agriculture, students in the school’s greenhouse were working on projects in hydroponics and aquaponics, types of horticulture that focus on growing plants without soil. 

Our final stop on the tour of the farm was a smaller greenhouse that housed several seedlings of the Survivor Tree. One of the most recognizable features of the 9/11 Memorial today, the Survivor Tree stands as a symbol of strength and resilience. Originally located on World Trade Center Plaza, the tree was found alive after being buried for a month in the debris of the collapsed Twin Towers. After its recovery, seeds were removed from the tree and planted with the hope of producing seedlings. Some of those seedlings were entrusted to the agricultural students at John Bowne in 2013 where, with the support of Bartlett Tree Company, they have thrived under the students’ diligent and expert care. 

Agricultural students still check on the seedlings daily, ensuring they have enough water and sunlight to mature. As Cristian talked about the years of work students put into the project, he mentioned that the Survivor Tree’s resilience can still be felt by the students who have cared for them. These seedlings will eventually be given to communities around the world that experienced tragedy, carrying with them that same resiliency and strength, and demonstrating how students today play an active role in the Museum’s mission of remembrance.

By Julianne Oroukin, Assistant Manager, School & Teacher Programs

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