Over the last couple of weeks, students and teachers have been working on a garden project. They had transformed a weedy piece of land into a beautiful site. I was one of the students who took part in beautifying it. Students from all grades were involved. During the meets we got to talk to different people and just have fun. During the pandemic, students weren’t able to meet in person. This limited them from doing hands-on projects like building models, community service, and much more. Over the last couple of months, schools were reopened and that opportunity slowly came back. Below is some of what we accomplished and did during the last couple of weeks.
The first day, we gathered together at the back of the school and discussed what we were going to do for the next couple of weeks. We were separated into groups. After that, we introduced ourselves to get to know each other’s name and the basic stuff. Each group had a section to themselves to work on. We pulled the weeds out of the ground to clear the land. As we were working on that, other students would go around the school and gather rocks. These would later be used to form the pathway inside the garden. We decided on a curved pathway, and we laid the rocks out accordingly. The atmosphere we worked in was nice. Everyone was kind to each other. No one felt pressured. It was a time of enjoyment and work.
The next meeting, we started gardening portion. A few instructors from Newtown Creek Alliance showed us how to plant the plants. They showed how to get them out of the pot, how far to dig according to the size of the plants, etc. We focused on planting and later took a lunch break. We ate pizza and talked to one another. After we finished eating, we set the sprinklers up to give the plants water. There wasn’t much to do after so we ended kind of early. We wrapped things up by saying our goodbyes.
The last meeting, we got a truck full of mulch. A lot of mulch. Mulch is usually used to help moisturize the soil, keep the soil cool, suppress the weeds (stop them from growing and spreading), and to make the garden look even better. To transport the mulch from the sidewalk into the garden, we used trash bins, and then we leveled the mulch. During this activity, a lot of students were needed. Some would shovel the mulch, others would lift/fetch the bins, and the rest would spread the mulch out in the garden. After we were done doing this, there was still a lot of mulch left. The teachers decided to place the rest around the school. Since it was like 80 degrees outside, we were dying. I’m joking, we were sweating a lot though. We finished a whole box full of water bottles. It was hot. While students waited for bins to return, they joked around. They even built a shovel tower. I witnessed that legendary moment with my own eyes. We went back to work…. We spent the rest of the afternoon doing so. After we were done we went home.
This project required a lot of teamwork and dedication. As we continued to work throughout the weeks we grew together as a community. It took some effort to plan it. Members of the Newton Greek Alliance and the WHSAD green team partnered up to make all of this possible. The idea was first introduced back in January and submitted to the Office of Sustainability. It was accepted and given funds. The soon to be garden would be a place where students can learn, people can relax, and for other environmental purposes. It was made specifically for the monarch butterfly, for when they would migrate. Being able to finish it was truly a blessing. Thanks to everyone who participated, we now have a beautiful garden in the community.
Below are accounts from WHSAD AP Environmental Science teacher, Mr. Giambrone and some WHSAD students who participated in the project.
Planning for the WHSAD garden and green space renovation all began earlier this January when the WHSAD Green Team met with members of the Newtown Creek Alliance to discuss a grant proposal that would be submitted to the Office of Sustainability. It was not long after when we found out the good news that we were awarded with enough funds to turn our green space into a beautiful place of learning and growth! Our proposed plan then went into effect as we held several more meetings to coordinate the ordering of a variety of plants and when the planting would take place. It did not take much effort to recruit helpful WHSAD students to assist with the planting of what would soon become a beautiful garden. The efforts of the students and staff of WHSAD were truly on display during the three days of renovation. All participants really came together to make this space not only something they could be proud of, but a place that staff and students could utilize for educational purposes. For instance, some of the plant species that were used in the green space certifies the space as a Monarch Waystation where monarch butterflies could rest along their migratory journey. Besides this being an exciting thing to have on our campus, it also provides science teachers with an opportunity to educate students why this is important and what this provides for our ecosystem.
This past academic year was not the easiest due to the effects of COVID-19. Both staff and students were unable to really partake in hands-on, educational activities. However, the renovations of this green space truly provided that opportunity for all participants to communicate and work together, in-person. Not only did this provide participants with this opportunity to socialize and work together with others but the students, little did they know, were learning about different plant species while also being exposed to some skills needed for effective planting! Needless to say, a couple of “green thumbs” were born as a result of this project.
The goal for this project was always to provide a space where teachers, of any subject, could bring their students outside for class. Any teachers, science or not, can freely teach their class outside or use the plants to educate their students on specific topics like the functioning of an ecosystem, photosynthesis, biodiversity, and many others.
I am proud of the work that the WHSAD community was able to do and I look forward to seeing the many benefits that this garden provides to our community.
Ilona Iberle-WHSAD Freshman
Do you love gardening? I don’t, lol, but the two days that I did gardening with my school was actually fun for me. It was fun because I got along with some people there and talked to them and made some friends. We helped plant around the campus, and made the school look healthier and more pleasing to the eye. On the first day we were put into groups and each group had a section for us to pick up all the grass that was on the ground so it could be just dirt all around. While we were doing that, another group was getting the bricks so we could make a little pathway in the small garden. Then on the second day we were put into groups of 2 seniors, and 1 freshman. I bonded with my group, and it made gardening feel like more of an activity than a chore. The third day we had to dig and place mulch around the campus. It was a lot of work but we finished it by the end of the day. Around the campus, it looks a lot more green, healthy, and alive. The activity made me want to come to school and get more involved In things. It was an opportunity to get to know my peers and make our community look better.
Julian Agosto-WHSAD Freshman
When I was pulled out of Ms. Newton’s class to help work on the garden I thought to myself “ It’s nothing that special. I’ll just pull out some weeds and get it over with.” But little did I know that it was a pretty cool experience. I met a lot of new people, made a ton of new friends and I’ve gained experience on how to actually work. And with this whole experience, I saw that there were a ton of new things to this school that I’ve never known. I didn’t even know there was a Garden!
But when the time came after hours of work and hanging out with new people I realized I wanted to do this some more. So I asked Ms. Spaziani and she said I could join. I even got my own shirt. So what can I say I’ve gained out of this whole experience? I could say I’ve gained some new friends, a new path to where I want my career to be, and a shirt.
Silas Rodriguez-WHSAD Senior
The WHSAD garden renovation was a long and at times, difficult project to finish. It involved seniors, freshmen and teachers all getting their hands dirty for nature. First we had to strip the area clean, by removing all overgrown weeds, unwanted plants and trash. After that was done we had to turn the dirt and make the area somewhat level so we could carve out a pathway. The design of the garden was created by some of the students on autocad which entailed a small curved pathway going through the middle of the garden. To do this groups of students went around the school with a shovel and wheelbarrow to take the bricks surrounding the trees. After we finally were able to get all the bricks into the garden of which there were way too many bricks, we dug up the intended pathway and laid the bricks. After that we turned the soil on each side of the pathway and were able to get to planting. Everyone got down and started digging holes for the delivery of plants we had gotten. Despite it looking like the end, the hard work was still yet to come. The next work day after we got all the plants situated with a sprinkler system, we had gotten a dump truck to drop a huge pile of mulch right on the corner of the school. We had so much mulch we were able to put a healthy amount around the entire school with plenty to spare. When they first dumped it we had a group of people shoveling mulch into empty trash cans so we could spread it all around the garden. After our garden was done there was still a huge pile that looked almost untouched. So we decided to load up as many empty bins as possible and take them around the school in the hopes of making the pile disappear. In the end we did succeed and several teachers cleaned up what remained. And at the end of the day there was a pretty nice looking garden left behind. Ironically, despite what seems like an indictment of the work, all of this was a form of therapy for me. For over a year, I had been so isolated from the school that being in there with teachers and some of my closest peers from the years at WHSAD, felt euphoric in a way. It felt like life before covid as we joked around and ate pizza together. All this compounded even more so by the fact that we graduate in a matter of weeks. But I’m happy that I could spend just the littlest of moments with my peers, even if that consisted of gardening which is something I am not very good at.