Garden Apprentice Program

Garden Apprentice Program

The Garden Apprentice Program (GAP) at Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a great way for teens to learn about urban agriculture and the environment while working in one of the most exciting public gardens in the world! Apprentices can work their way up the four-tier program.

Enjoy this video about GAP

If you enjoy getting your hands dirty and want to work with other teens, GAP may be for you.

Apprentices make a nine-month commitment to GAP, from March to November, which includes spring training, summer programming, and a weekly commitment throughout the spring and fall. See the tier descriptions for more information.

All GAP participants must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 vaccine by the start of programs in March 2023.

A group of teenagers in blue t-shirts in front of a table full of vegetables.
Program Tiers

Garden Apprentices in all tiers

  • Learn about botany and environmentalism through hands-on sessions.
  • Grow and harvest fruits, vegetables, and herbs in the Children’s Garden.
  • Develop lesson plans to teach children about plants and nature, either remotely or in-person.
  • Explore Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s amazing plant collections in-depth.
  • Develop job skills, including teamwork, communication, and leadership.
  • Earn a monetary award at the end of the apprenticeship.
  • Please note that due to the ongoing pandemic, program schedules and policies may be altered for safety.

Tier 1

Open to students in 8th or 9th grade

  • Tier 1 apprentices spend most of their time outdoors gardening, cooking with fresh ingredients, crafting, and exploring nature with children aged 4–12 alongside an adult instructor and a Tier 4 apprentice. They build skills in urban farming while learning to be an environmental educator.

Tier 2

Open to students in 10th grade or to those who have successfully completed Tier 1

  • Tier 2 apprentices work both behind the scenes and with the public at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Apprentices are placed in different areas of the Garden in spring, summer, and fall. Placements include learning to care for plants in the Education Greenhouse and teaching the public about science in the Discovery Garden.
  • Tier 2 apprentices participate in community action projects, field trips, and discussions around both local and global environmental issues.

Tier 3

Open to students in 11th grade or to those who have successfully completed Tier 2

  • Tier 3 apprentices work in teams to research, design, and create their own GAP carts, education stations that are wheeled out into the Garden on weekends. Tier 3 apprentices practice public-speaking and teaching skills as they engage with Garden visitors from all over the world.
  • Tier 3 apprentices delve into current local and global environmental issues through community action projects, field trips, and discussions. Tier 3 apprentices serve as role models and leaders for other apprentices.
  • Tier 3 apprentices who are rising seniors participate in college preparation sessions to start the college application process.

Tier 4

Open to students who have successfully completed Tier 3

  • Tier 4 apprentices spend most of their time outdoors gardening, cooking with fresh ingredients, crafting, and exploring nature with children aged 4–12 alongside an adult instructor and a Tier 1 apprentice. They build skills in urban farming while learning how to be an environmental educator.
  • Tier 4 apprentices serve as role models and leaders for other apprentices.
  • Tier 4 apprentices who are rising seniors participate in college preparation sessions to start the college application process.
A group of teenagers wearing masks in front of a table full of various vegetables.
Frequently Asked Questions

1. Will I be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to participate in GAP for 2023?
Yes, GAP is requiring all apprentices to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for participation in the 2023 program year. GAP must follow local and and federal COVID-19 guidelines, which requires anyone entering an indoor space at BBG to show proof of vaccination. In addition, we feel that to best serve and protect the GAP community and expand programing beyond outdoor activities, we must require all participants to be fully vaccinated.

If you have questions or concerns, please email us at [email protected] to discuss.

2. Do I have to reapply to the program every year?
Yes. Even if you were in the program previously, you must submit an application (with reference letters) and participate in a group interview every year. You are not guaranteed a position in the next tier of the program just because you participated before.

3. I am in the 12th grade now—can I apply to be an apprentice?
Unfortunately, students currently in the 12th grade are not eligible to apply for GAP. The only 12th graders in the program are returning Tier 4 apprentices. (Tier 4 is not open to new applicants.)

4. If I participated in the Children’s Garden programs (Seeds, City Farmers, Junior Botanists, etc.), do I automatically get into GAP?
No, we do not automatically accept anyone into the program—all students must submit a full application and be interviewed. We have many apprentices who have participated in other BBG programs, and we encourage all former program participants to apply.

5. How does GAP decide who is accepted into the program?
The staff panel reviews the applications and considers the applicants’ short-answer responses and their reference forms, as well as how the applicants represent themselves at the group interview. We are looking for commitment and genuine interest in learning at BBG, among other qualities. GAP aims to create a community that reflects the cultural, socioeconomic, and racial diversity of New York City. Past performance in the Garden Apprentice Program is also taken into consideration for returning applicants.

6. Do I have to pay to participate in the Garden Apprentice Program?
All new apprentices are required to pay a one-time $50 fee to help offset the cost of uniforms and other materials provided to each apprentice. As the apprentice moves up the tiers in the program, he/she is not required to pay the fee again. Need-based scholarships are available.

7. Do I need to have gardening experience to be accepted as an apprentice?
No. We have some apprentices with years of experience in growing food and working with plants and many more apprentices who have never set foot in a vegetable garden. The apprenticeship is designed so that people from all knowledge levels have opportunities to learn and explore.

8. What is the time commitment for an apprentice?
Apprentices typically work an average of 2–3 hours per week during the spring and fall and 5–6 hours per week during summer programming. Over the course of the year, our apprentices spend approximately 50–60 hours at the Garden. All apprentices have mandatory training on three full Saturdays in March. Meetings, trainings, and special events will be added periodically to the calendar.

The schedule for GAP varies depending on the time of year and your tier in the program. Please see the 2020 GAP Calendar as an example. The 2023 calendar will be similar.

While many apprentices participate in sports, clubs, college prep, and other extracurricular activities, we do ask that serious applicants prioritize GAP, after academics. We help apprentices develop the time-management skills needed to juggle multiple responsibilities and are generally flexible regarding occasional conflicts, provided the apprentice communicates with supervisors in advance.

9. What are the dates for the 2023 program?
GAP runs from March through November 2023. Please see the 2020 GAP Calendar as an example. The 2023 calendar will be similar.

10. Can I miss the summer session and still participate in GAP?
No. Participation in the summer session of the program is required, no exceptions. Please schedule family vacations and other activities before or after the dates listed on the application.

11. Can I participate only in the summer session?
No. We ask apprentices to make a full commitment to the program, March–November. If you are looking for a summer internship only, this is not the place for you!

12. What if I want to go on vacation during the summer?
Please schedule family vacations and other activities before or after the dates listed on the application.

13. Can I apply for the Summer Youth Employment Program in the summer and still participate in GAP?
Due to scheduling constraints and other concerns, we are not able to have apprentices apply for SYEP funding for the summer.

14. Do I have to start at Tier 1, or can I join the program at another tier level?
New applicants can apply to the Garden Apprentice Program at any tier except Tier 4. To apply to be a Tier 4 apprentice, you must have successfully completed Tier 3.

15. Can I skip a tier?
We generally encourage apprentices to participate in all tiers once they have joined GAP as there are opportunities and skills unique to each tier that we think are valuable as you move up through the program. However, if you leave GAP for a year and wish to return, you are welcome to apply again.

16. Could participation in GAP count toward community service credit?
Absolutely! The hours you contribute to BBG as an apprentice are considered volunteer hours. These hours can be used toward community service requirements from your school. Even though apprentices receive a stipend for their work (see #17, below), the hours contributed are still considered volunteer hours.

17. Do I get paid? When?

Apprentices who successfully complete Tiers 1–3 are given a nontaxable award in December. Tier 4 apprentices are considered part-time BBG staff and receive an hourly wage based on the applicable minimum wage set by the NYC Department of Labor.

18. Is transportation provided to and from the Garden?
Apprentices are responsible for getting to and from the Garden for all GAP programs. Metrocards will be provided if needed for transportation to and from GAP programs.

19. Will the program consider applicants with special needs?
Applicants with special needs are given equal consideration. We review each individual’s application on a case-by-case basis and, for applicants who may need significant support in order to participate fully in the program, may follow up with the applicant and his or her family to ensure a good fit. Please contact us if you have questions or would like to discuss a particular student’s application.

20. Do I have to send in all my application materials together, or can they be submitted separately?
No, you do not have to submit all your application materials at the same time. You can complete your application online, mail it in, or drop it off, and then ask your references to complete their forms online or mail them directly to the GAP coordinators:

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Attn: GAP
1000 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225

Make sure your references know that all application materials are due by midnight, December 9, 2022! That means that forms submitted by mail must be received by GAP by December 9, not postmarked by December 9. We recommend speaking with your references well in advance of the deadline. We do not accept faxes.

21. How many apprentices are accepted into the program?
GAP accepts 12 to 14 apprentices per tier. In the past, we have received about three times that number of applications. Therefore, acceptance into the program is competitive but not impossible! Good luck!

More questions? Contact the GAP coordinators at 718-623-7252, 718-623-7328, or [email protected].

Four teenagers posing in the Children's Garden with a scarecrow.

Applications

GAP Applications

Applications for the 2023 program open October 10, 2022. Please check back!


Support

Lead Sponsor

ConEd logo

Additional Support

William C. Bullitt Foundation
Bulova Stetson Fund
Constans Culver Foundation
Zeldin Family Foundation

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