Students Make Dream Garden A Reality
Students at Coretta Scott King Magnet School have learned that a pinch of hard work, mixed with determination and a whole lot of community and family support can make a dream into reality. When the sixth grade students of the IMSA Fusion afterschool program, embarked on their unit for the spring, they had no idea their “miniaturize” project would “supersize” into a school renovation project! As part of the “Supersize or Miniaturize” educational unit, students measured the school’s courtyard and began drawing a scale model which included figures on how much dirt and mulch would be needed to renovate the aging courtyard. After completing their models, the IMSA Fusion participants took it a step farther to try and make their renovation plans a reality by applying for a school garden grant. Despite a solid application co-authored by the students and Jennifer Dryja, 6th Grade IMSA Fusion sponsor and Resource Teacher, the program was not awarded any funding.
“I think that not receiving the grant was actually a good thing. The kids knew how disappointed I was but overcoming that disappointment and problem solving around the obstacle provided a valuable lesson for them and allowed us to make our renovation a community project,” said Ms. Dryja. She solicited help from her father, a retired mechanical engineer, to help her and the students restore the courtyard by getting the ground ready for planting and refurbishing two benches in school colors. Each student crafted a stepping stone for the “stepping stones to success” pathway through the garden. A Spanish teacher at the school helped to coordinate a plant exchange via Facebook and was able to donate perennials for the garden. Third through sixth grade students chipped in by planting specific colored flowers to create a beautiful “rainbow garden.”
“I enjoyed making the stepping stones because we got to put our own ideas into it. I learned that it takes more than just ideas to make the courtyard look how we want it. We had to measure and plan where everything would go,” said Dabion, 6th grade student. Upon learning the outcome of the grant application, Ms. Dryja contacted local business, Santa Fe Landscaping & Nursery in Monee, who generously donated dirt and mulch for the garden. They also offered a discount to families purchasing plants for the garden and suggested that the students harvest vegetables as a way to see the fruits of their labor come fall. Students, staff, family, and friends spent hours together placing dirt and mulch, planting flowers, and making the garden something the school could be proud of!
“I’ve learned it’s a lot harder than you think. You can’t just think of everything on paper. You have to bring it alive. It’s a lot of work. It was hard not getting the grant. I learned then that it was going to cost a lot of money and we had to ask for favors. I’m surprised how much people gave,” said Christina, 6th grade student. The courtyard will be mostly a green space but the planting beds will allow classroom teachers to utilize the space for projects that tie into the school’s curriculum. Students will be responsible for maintaining the flowers and vegetable gardens during recess and are looking forward to taking ownership of their new courtyard!