Students at Longacre Elementary in Farmington need help this weekend to restore the school’s 12-year-old gardens before summer break.
The remarkable courtyard learning space was designed by fifth graders at Farmington STEAM Academy, who chose the challenge for their first year of Project-Based Learning (PBL). Created by teachers and volunteers, the space is filled with perennial plants, ornamental trees, grasses and brick paths leading to a circle meeting area.
The STEAM Academy’s fifth grade teachers planted a seed for this project by presenting their students with a challenge: How can we make the great outdoors a better environment for our school, our community, and the Earth while protecting our natural resources? In response, students and teachers created three design groups – Trash To Treasure, Critter Care, and Garden Rescue and Design.
Realizing his students had no experience in design, teacher Jeff Rehbine directed students to a new plan that would teach them how to care for gardens and actively care about their community. Students embraced his suggestion to restore the Longacre garden, which would provide an opportunity for the two schools to collaborate.
After completing the project, STEAM Academy students will turn their attention to designing their school’s gardens.
The Longacre project included a school-year-long restoration timeline with specific objectives and phases. During an exploratory field trip in the fall, students assessed the space and each “adopted” a plant from the garden to research and write about.
On March 8, Rehbine and a group of STEAM Academy students presented their recommendations for improvements and repairs to the Longacre PTA and Principal Rhonda Henry, who offered support.
By this time, Dara Weber, a parapro, former parent, and long-time school supporter, took on the role of coordinating the project from the Longacre end, contacting potential businesses to contribute materials or tools to stretch the budget. Many local businesses offered help, including Fendt for the block, Eagle Landscaping for gravel and mulch, Block Greenhouse and Nursery, Alexander True Value and Pro Lift Rental.
Two “work days” were scheduled to complete the project. On May 19, Longacre students and parents worked with a group of FSA students to weed, restore beds and dig a trench for the foundation of a sitting wall that the STEAM students suggested adding.
On Saturday, June 2, students and parents from both schools will be on site to finish laying block for the sitting wall, stain benches and rails, add new plantings, and lay down eight yards of mulch. Students at the STEAM school also worked on restoring the garden sign, which will be remounted.
Anyone interested in helping to add final touches is invited to sign up for the June 2 work day at signupgenius.com.
The final gift to the Longacre staff and students from Farmington STEAM Academy will be a student researched and authored Longacre Garden Care Guide, which will include pictures, descriptions, and care needs for the plants the students “adopted” in the fall.