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Gardens anchor 'outdoor classrooms'
AHES features butterflies, fruit
Boys and Girls Club members T'Kaesha Waller and Kaiia Stockton watch a butterfly on a flowering butterfly bush in the Albert Harris Elementary School garden. (Contributed photo by Kim Barto)
Sunday, August 5, 2012
By HOLLY KOZELSKY - Bulletin Accent Editor
August may mean back to school, but it doesn’t necessarily mean back to the classroom.
Many classes nowadays are taking place outside. Many examples for lessons in math, science, history, English and more come from schools’ gardens.
Prompted by the state, “We are embarking on a new adventure of project-based learning,” said Albert Harris Elementary School (AHES) gifted program teacher Violet Nelson, one of the coordinators of the AHES gardens.
Felicia Preston, AHES principal, explained that schools today are expected to give children “real world experience” so they “learn in context.”
“That’s the best way to learn, learning by doing,” she added.
When students return to school, they will have a variety of math lessons, such as weight, using the garden’s pumpkins. The gourds will demonstrate how people in history depended on plants for uses other than eating.
Tamra Vaughan, who was principal last year, kicked off the idea of gardens, which are in the courtyard behind the school. Her plans called for an herb wheel, a vegetable garden, a butterfly garden and a “quilt garden” for seasonal display.
In the spring, Master Gardener Cliff Rood met with Vaughan and Nelson and another volunteer to review the plan. Rood urged the group that soil preparation was the most important consideration. Without good soil, he said, the plants would not stand a chance.
He recommended a deep tilling, the use of compost to enrich the soil and a cover of mulch to preserve moisture and keep out weeds.
Plants were donated by gardeners who participated in the spring Martinsville Bulletin Plant Swap and Master Gardeners. They included blueberry bushes, strawberries, tomatoes and a variety of perennials.
On Saturday, April 28, about 20 volunteers prepared and planted the beds. The group included teachers and some of their children as well as students and some of their parents.
They began by tilling the area. Vaughan’s husband Alan Vaughan tilled half of the butterfly garden bed with a rotary tiller, while other people dug down into the rest of the soil using shovels.
Once the soil was loosened to a depth of several inches, the volunteers dug implements into the ground to keep the soil loose and fertile. Garden Study Club provided PermaTill, compost, fertilizer and other soil implements for that purpose.
About noon, teacher Greg Hackenberg arrived for a shift of work. A strong man would have been a big help to a team of mostly women, but the other teachers would not let him do any lifting or heavy digging. That was the night of Dancing for the Arts, and Hackenberg was to be one of the dancers. No one wanted him to hurt his back beforehand.
The entire butterfly garden was planted. Across the sidewalk, rows of blueberry bushes, raspberry vines and strawberry plants were planted. The beds then were covered with layers of newspaper, topped with mulch.
In the fall, students in a mentoring program will build benches for the butterfly garden. They will be under the direction of school safety counselor Lenny Noel.
Nelson wrote lesson plans for all of the teachers to be able to use examples from the garden as springboards to learning.