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Students discover Fruit Belt history in Buffalo

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WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
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Some middle school students at Futures Academy conducted their own fact-finding about Buffalo's Fruit Belt.  Students created a documentary to learn the history of the neighborhood.   WBFO'S Eileen Buckley attended a screening of the film and had a chance to talk to some of the students involved.

A project team of about 12 students from Futures Academy set out to research and produce this film.  Futures Academy is located in the heart of the Fruit Belt -- at the corner of Orange and Peach Streets. 

"I knew that the streets are named after fruits but i didn't know they were named after fruits because there was that fruit tree on every street," said Tatania Tart, 7th grader at Futures Academy. 

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Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
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Fruit Belt street sign near Futures Academy

Tart and other students interviewed various sources from community block clubs, Locust Street Art and the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers to gather their material. 

"I learned that back then...they had made communities to help each other out," said Tart. "That's how they started the Fruit Belt community.

But most surprising to Tart -- a change in demographics -- from the families who originally settled in the 1900's to live  in the Fruit Belt.

"There was different races here...there were many different races. It was first run by Germans.  I didn't know that," said Tart.

Students received help with their project from University at Buffalo Center for Urban Studies -- part of the center's Community as Classroom initiative led by  Dr. Henry Taylor.  

7th grader Jenesis Rodriguez was surprised of the many neighborhood changes over the years in the Fruit Belt.

Students also discovered how the Kensington Expressway cuts right through  the Fruit Belt and disrupted the shape of the original neighborhood. 

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Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
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Lemon Street runs near the Kensington Expressway in the Fruit Belt

This hands-on project teaches students about urban planning.  Students discovered the major transformation occurring in part of the Fruit Belt, with the growth of the Medical Corridor and new housing. 

"Especially when the kids started going around and seeing that the new housing was being built," said Gavin Luter, coordinator with UB's Center for Urban Studies.

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Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
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Gavin Luter, coordinator with UB's Center for Urban Studies, guided student project

Luter guided the students in producing the  film.

"We just wanted them to see that there are lots of different people talking about the future of this neighborhood and it is really on the brink of something right here,' said Luter.

The purpose of the project was to teach  students that city's are built. 

Students say they now have better understanding of how attending the school in the Fruit Belt is an important part of shaping the future of that neighborhood.