Bronx teacher uses gardening to inspire students to study science

Stephan Ritz, who teaches at P.S. 55, says students from his community traditionally don't go to the Bronx High School of Science. He wants to change that.

He’s not a farmer, but Stephen Ritz said he and his students have grown more than 30,000 pounds of vegetables over the last eight years.

The longtime teacher and founder of the non-profit Green Bronx  Machine is determined to change the lives of disadvantaged students, one garden at a time.

“I’m building healthy living habits and a healthy environment,” said Ritz, who grew up in the Bronx and teaches at P.S. 55 in Morrisania.

He started teaching almost 30 years ago, focusing on special education and crisis intervention. Colleagues say Ritz’s infectious enthusiasm and hard work produced higher test scores and improved attendance.

When he received some free plant bulbs in 2005, he sent his students from Walton High School out — sometimes into enemy gang territory — to beautify the neighborhoods.

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