The Brooklyn Urban Gardener (BUG) certificate program is an annual multiple-session course that covers the basics in urban gardening and community greening. It connects the educational resources of Brooklyn Botanic Garden to the greening efforts of Brooklyn’s communities.
Upon completing all coursework, graduates are certified as Brooklyn Botanic Garden BUG volunteers. Certified BUGs then continue to support greening projects at schools, senior centers, block associations, community gardens, and other organizations.
BUG students can expect an experiential, train-the-trainer program. Using a hands-on, participatory education model, the course includes instruction in sustainable horticultural practices suited to the urban environment, street tree stewardship, community engagement practices, effective teaching methods, and an overview of the greening resources available in Brooklyn. The training is free.
Deadline to apply is June 1, 2023.
Apply for the 2023 program
A select number of applicants are chosen to participate in a group interview. From those, the class of 15 students is chosen and announced in July. Previously unsuccessful applicants are encouraged to reapply. Classes begin in mid–September and run into November.
If you have any questions, email [email protected] or call 718-623-7250.
Who are BUGs?
BUGs are Brooklyn Urban Gardeners—Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) volunteers who have completed a demanding certification process that prepares them to assist and lead community greening projects throughout Brooklyn. BUGs love people, plants, the planet, teaching, and gardening. Above all, they are community-minded: willing, able, and eager to be of service in making Brooklyn a greener place.
What is BBG looking for in a BUG?
The BUG program enrolls an intergenerational, multicultural mix of adults from diverse economic and educational backgrounds. BUGs are adult residents of Brooklyn and devoted lifelong learners, with varying levels of gardening expertise, who know that plants can bring people together. The best candidates have experience with civic engagement and volunteerism and feel a sense of commitment to serve the borough we call home.
Who manages the BUG program?
When does BUG training take place?
The BUG certificate program is a multisession course, held once annually during fall and winter. Classes are held on weekend afternoons (1–5 p.m.) and Thursday evenings (6–9 p.m.). Sessions take place from mid-September through November. Personal portfolio and study group activities extend into November when BUGs graduate.
Is there tuition or a fee?
The BUG program is completely free. This training is designed for people who intend to volunteer on an ongoing basis throughout Brooklyn on greening projects referred by Brooklyn Botanic Garden, or of their own devising. We ask that BUGs serve at least 20 hours per year after graduation to maintain BUG certification.
What is the time commitment for being a BUG?
It’s significant. Students are expected to attend every session of class (25 hours), do required reading and homework each week, attend study group meetings, and create a portfolio of their work in time for a graduation event held in November.
After graduating, BUGs are regularly informed of community greening projects seeking volunteer support. To maintain certification, BUGs are expected to continue to volunteer at least 20 hours per year.
Where are BUG classes held?
Classes are held in BBG’s classrooms and on the Garden’s grounds.
What subjects are covered in BUG classes?
BUG covers a lot of ground in a short time! Topics include asset-based community building, site assessment, growing more in less space, gardening with native plants, and more.
Who teaches BUG?
BUG workshops are led by a dedicated staff of BBG educators. Highly qualified guest instructors also bring wisdom from their specific areas of expertise. BUG’s facilitators believe that everyone learns, and everyone teaches. The BUG program’s approach honors the rich experience that each student brings with them and incorporates small-group learning, hands-on work, role playing, and of course, the invaluable challenges of collaborating with fellow BUG students.
I’m already a community greening volunteer. What can I gain from a BUG certificate?
Experienced greening volunteers can be great candidates for BUG; you are able to teach your fellow students while deepening your own understanding of and commitment to community greening. You’ll create a portfolio, do group work, increase your confidence as a greening teacher, and network with fellow students and instructors, all while becoming part of a remarkable community of BBG volunteers.
What is the BUG portfolio?
Each student builds upon a series of homework assignments to explore and document their progress. Most importantly, students create a site-assessment and gardening plan for a community or private garden site of their choosing. Students also include in their BUG portfolio a workshop outline of their own design on a greening-related topic of their choice as well as an action plan based on their vision of themselves as a BUG volunteer.
Does working on any community greening project count toward my annual 20 service hours?
Yes. After graduation, you may count any and all volunteer community greening work toward the 20 hours needed to maintain BUG certification. We urge BUG graduates to report their volunteer greening efforts to BBG annually.
Does everyone who applies get accepted to the program?
No. Fifteen students are accepted each year. We receive many more applications than there are spots available. Applications are reviewed in June. Once the number of prospective students has been narrowed down, group interviews are held in July to select the next class of 15 BUGs.
If I’m not accepted this year, can I reapply next year?
Yes! The admission process is strongly influenced by geographical location of applicants, so try, try again.
How can I learn more about whether the BUG program is right for me?
One way is to attend the next Making Brooklyn Bloom conference, held at Brooklyn Botanic Garden each March. Lots of BUG graduates are on hand to help answer questions.
Questions? Contact us at [email protected] or 718-623-7250.
More questions? Contact Brooklyn Botanic Garden's community greening staff at [email protected] or 718-623-7250.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden gratefully acknowledges support for this program from the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the NYS Assembly and NYS Senate, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and the NYC Council.
Major Sponsor, Community Greening Programs