Taken from: MercuryNews.com
The dream to have an outdoor garden at the Merryhill School on Yosemite Drive took flight Monday with a butterfly release in the near-completed site during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. "Not only is today the opening of our garden but it is also Earth Day," Vice Principal Jessica Arciniega said, adding the release of 20 monarch butterflies by selected students symbolized not only the realized accomplishment, but also life itself. "ÉSo this is one thing that Merryhill is doing to give back to the environment in honor of Earth Day as well."
Following the release, kindergarten- through fourth-grade students took turns grabbing and planting handfuls of seeds in a designated area of one of the planter boxes marked with plaques labeled with the different teachers' names.
"Next year our goal is for everyone to be involved in the garden, whether watering the plants, adding new plants," Arciniega said. "É so next year hopefully it will be already grown and next year you can help maintain it."
Principal Quinn Letan said they "always wanted an outdoor school, just an extension of our learning as much as possible." But it wasn't until they received a $750 grant from Republic Services of Santa Clara County formerly Allied Waste the idea was able to take root. Members of the school's gardening club (approximately 20 students) starting laying the groundwork in January, and expect it to be complete next month after meeting 45 minutes two times a week since that time.
Sixth-grader Nandana Suresh alongside fifth-graders Alicia Tsung and Vivian Nguyen talked briefly about what they have enjoyed most being a part of the project, and club. They each previously had experience gardening at home, Suresh mentioning doing a vegetable garden every year and Tsung helping maintain the fruit trees and a small garden in her back yard. Suresh said it was fun to plant for the Merryhill garden, watching them grow throughout the process. She noted the snapdragons in particular. "They're really pretty and colorful," Suresh said. Nguyen, on the other hand, enjoyed painting the mural, which she had clearly been working on even that day, her shirt and arms speckled with paint. Tsung agreed. "I enjoyed painting because we made the garden look more colorful," she said. Club adviser and teacher Kanchan Bhandare said they still have approximately one-fourth of the project to complete, including painting two wooden archways, finishing a wall mural, painting a globe on the ground and placing a plaque on the purple bench placed in honor of "one of ther own," Joanne Lams, who died last year.
"I think the best part of the process has been that the kids have been doing all the work," Arciniega said.
They have built and stained the materials needed for the planter boxes, along with designing and painting the wall mural in that area with art teacher Robyn Baumgartner, and planting flowers, vegetables and fruits. Community outreach also helped the project come to life. Employees from the local Orchard Supply Hardware visited the school to show students how to plant properly, and Zanker Recycling provided the dirt. Bhandare said the project has had many benefits. "It teaches children responsibility and teamwork in order to maintain the garden," she explained. "They also learn to appreciate the power of nature and protecting our natural resources." She added the garden also provides hands-on learning, allowing the classroom to extend outside and connect to the curriculum along with open up discussions about nutrition and eating healthy.
"So going through this process I think they appreciate and really understand what it takes to take care of a garden, just like anything else in life," Letan said.
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