Driggs Dragons garden project cultivates a community
Last fall, students helped replant the courtyard. (Driggs Facebook)
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Last fall, third-grade students at H. R. Driggs Elementary had a special opportunity to replant the school’s courtyard. Principal Mike Douglas initiated the project. Working in partnership with the Utah Associated Garden Clubs and Thanksgiving Point, the Driggs Dragon Gardeners club was formed.
“They are a junior garden club that I was lucky enough to create,” said Connie MacKay, first vice president of the Utah Associated Garden Clubs (UAGC). The UAGC is the state chapter of the National Garden Clubs, Inc.
“There are only 20 children in our garden club,” MacKay said. “But we have managed to include most of the other classes in our planting projects, thus making the school children feel that they all have an investment in the courtyard.”
Douglas and third-grade teacher Alison Jueschke help manage the program together.
MacKay explained the club’s mission: to get the children interested in gardening and expanding their knowledge of and interest in the natural world around them.
“In September, October and November we worked really hard weeding and clearing the area,” MacKay said.
First, MacKay, Jueschke and a few parent volunteers helped to clear out debris.
“Then, the children helped redistribute the soil and plant spring bulbs, and various perennials,” MacKay said.
Thanksgiving Point pitched in with their Tulips Journey North program. They donated 125 tulip bulbs to Driggs. In 2013, Thanksgiving Point produced a video explaining how the program works.
“Tulips Journey North is an outreach program that we do that consists of two visits,” said Thanksgiving Point Education Coordinator Jennifer Brown. “We come in the fall and explain to students about living and nonliving things. We help them plant their tulips. The spring activity is similar to the fall where it has an inside and outside component.”
As word spread of the garden project, donations came from the surrounding school community. MacKay mentioned parents donated gardening gloves for each student participant. Other parents donated snacks and rewards for students.
Local businesses also participated with additional monetary and in-kind donations. Millcreek Gardens lent out 10 troughs. Red Butte Gardens donated 1.5 truckloads of used potting soil. David Wright from Earth Community Gardens gave planters. Ames Tool Company gave approximately $150 worth of gardening supplies including shovels, rakes, troughs and edgers.
MacKay said students transferred the donated pile of soil with a bucket brigade to the planting areas.
MacKay has more activities planned in the spring for the garden club. She will use resources from the National Gardens Club to teach awareness of pesticides, diseases, habitat loss and pollution.
“We will be developing a better understanding of amphibians, using ‘The Frightened Frog’ book as our core,” she said. “We are hoping that our garden club will influence the rest of the school and community to care more for our planet and its inhabitants.”
“The Frightened Frog, An Environmental Tale” is one of several books produced by the National Garden Club as a learning tool. The book shares environmental concerns about amphibians and how children can support their habitats, starting at home. It’s designed for readers in grades K–4, and sells for 10 dollars via the National Garden Club website.
“This has been a exhilarating experience for parents, teachers and students alike,” MacKay said. “I would highly recommend that other schools consider reaching out to our youth in this fashion.”
The Utah Associated Garden Clubs may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. MacKay encourages anyone interested in learning more about the National Garden club to visit http://www.gardenclub.org.