Last year, the Monticello Middle School Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) class put together a regular outdoor garden.
It was beautiful, but teacher Karen Smith wanted more. When she mentioned it offhand to her students one day, she had no idea they would help it become a reality.
But when one student went home and told her mom, a Home Depot manager, about Smith’s dreams, plans for an even more impressive garden grew quickly. Home Depot partnered up with Smith FACS class and Jeff Bordwell’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), donating $2,000 to the project.
The planning for the project took most of the school year. Bordwell tasked his STEM class with creating a design for the gardens.
One of his students, Emily Dahlke, designed a perfect setup, incorporating two benches, two picnic tables, a walking path, a large garden and 17 garden beds.
All the planning led up to last Thursday, when Smith and Bordwell brought their classes of eighth graders out throughout the day to work with Home Depot volunteers as they assembled the gardening masterpiece.
“Initially, it was just an assignment,” said Bordwell. “But I think they started to see the importance of the project.”
That realization was seen in their energy assembling the garden on Thursday. “It was crazy,” said Smith. “The entire student body was participating.
The students felt good about not only the finished product, but also the work it took to get there.
“Taught you how you can do something if you put your mind to it,” said eighth-grader Maddie Friede “Taught you how to persevere.”
And while it was certainly hard work, the fact that it was different than normal school work helped peak the kids’ interest.
“It makes it more fun to be outside and doing hands-on activities and not just in the classroom all the time,” said FACS student Nick Zwack.
While the hard work is done, the project isn’t. Plants are scheduled to be put in over the next couple weeks, as the students will continue to learn both about gardening and sustainability.
“It’s going to be pretty cool seeing all the vegetables we can grow out here and possibly making lunch for the school,” said Blake Dockendorf.
Smith is excited to produce healthy items that she can use in her classroom to teach recipes to her students the remainder of this year, and in years ahead.
But she also hopes they’re teaching the kids something that extends beyond their eighth grade school year.
“This is a lifelong skill,” said Smith.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]