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2018 Carton 2 Garden Grand Prize Winner: Johnsburg High School

Carton 2 Garden winnersThe Johnsburg High School Carton 2 Garden Project, “Follow the Pollinators to Our Garden!,” hatched to life during an Art Club meeting after listening to a guest presentation on bees. “Brainstorming about what we wanted to do for our project was a lot of fun,” shares teacher Judy Krueger, and she enjoyed watching how her students jumped in to take the lead.  “Once we decided to focus on pollinators, we threw around a lot of possible ideas of things we could do for our Carton 2 Garden project. Then my student, Megan, stood up and started creating a timeline of events on the whiteboard. I love how, after telling a few of my students about this project,  they embraced it and ran with it. It truly sparked leadership abilities in them that I hadn't seen before and offered them an opportunity to learn and grow by doing activities I wouldn't normally have initiated in our classes.”

Over the months, what began as a small seed of an idea blossomed into a multifaceted educational program involving the entire community of Johnsburg, Illinois.  Judy explains, “Pollinators are ESSENTIAL and our goal was to spread that message. We also wanted to encourage our community to plant native flowers in their gardens for these important creatures. Through the use of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, ART, and math) we reached out to the public to get attention drawn to this issue. We literally used cartons to create an attraction to our garden!”

Components of the grand prize Johnsburg High School Carton 2 Garden Project included:

  • Students in Drawing I and II classes creating large drawings of plants and pollinators. These were put on display at the Bowl o' Arts and Business and Craft Expo for the community to see, along with a “Bee a Pollinator Pal” booth to spread awareness of the huge importance of native bees. In addition to the art display, students gathered materials to show visitors how to build their own bee houses (from recycled milk cartons) and encouraged them to plant more native flowers in their gardens. Coloring pages and face painting were offered to help engage younger kids in the message, too.
  • At school, a mural was crafted from carton creations (cartons were folded to create pollinators, flowers, stems, and leaves) to help students get excited about the garden they were planning at the school.
  • Using a student-designed coloring page, they also organized a coloring contest in nearby elementary schools. The coloring page included information about why pollinators are important. From 65 entries, one winner was chosen from each age group and all were put on display at the high school. In order to encourage the idea of planting native plants, the winners received wild strawberry plants (donated by a local gardener). Students planted the wild strawberries in cartons decorated with recycled upholstery fabric samples.
  • Beyond the art club, the Johnsburg SEED Club planted many types of native grasses and flowering plants, along with some vegetables. The student scientists researched the seeds and made sheets with information about the plants and instructions on how to plant them and keep them growing well. They stayed after school to fill trays and cartons with dirt, plant seeds, and water regularly.
  • As a final component of their project, members of the student council focused on the importance of pollinators to sustain our food supply. Students volunteered at a local food pantry, made connections, and learned about their pantry’s community garden. Students then grew tomato and pepper plants in recycled cloth grocery bag planters for the pantry to plant in their gardens in the spring.

As the project progressed, one challenge they faced was providing light for their seedlings. Science teacher Jake Hadden stepped in to help construct grow lights in their windowless science classrooms. “I was lucky enough to have a friend that owns a lighting business.  He was throwing away a set of 2' x 4' fluorescent ceiling fixtures that I gladly accepted so I could use them as grow lights.” He is currently leading the construction of a geodesic dome greenhouse that will provide them with more growing space in the future.

“Getting so many of our students involved in this project created a greater sense of community and purpose for our students. Through social media, our extended community expressed pride in our accomplishments as well,” shares Judy. “ The learning was student-driven, applicable to everyday life, and very rewarding! I love doing projects that encourage students to interact with the community and with learners of all ages. Through our coloring contest and donations to the FISH Food Pantry, our students made connections with others outside of our everyday learning environment and directly affected the quality of their lives.”

“We had so many goals woven into our Carton to Garden project — teaching students and the community about the beauty and significance of plants and pollinators in nature and how they both benefit us greatly; creating a school garden that provides hands-on experiential learning; and providing for a need in our community. The prize money has been such a bonus. With money being tight in our schools, we will be able to do so much more with the greenhouse and our gardening initiative.”