PT Holdings Garden Build at Fullerton Elementary

In May 2017, for the third year in a row, KidsGardening partnered with PT Holdings to build a school garden in the suburbs of Chicago as part of the local company’s Giving Back Initiative. This year, Fullerton Elementary School in Addison, IL, was the recipient of this exciting opportunity. 

Back in February the KidsGardening staff began working with a team from Fullerton headed by fourth grade teacher and garden enthusiast, Bob Wojtas, to design a combined growing and learning space that fit the school’s needs and desires.

For years, Bob has been running a gardening club called Nature Nerds. The club has largely focused on beautifying the school landscape, tending a small pollinator patch and a swath of perennials that run the length of their building. But he was eager to develop a garden space where the Nature Nerds could try their hand at cultivating more than just ornamental plants. As part of the planning process for the project, Bob consulted his students for ideas and even took his group to the Chicago Flower Show for inspiration; many of their suggestions were incorporated into the final garden design. 

In mid-May, over 200 eager volunteers descended upon the school to build ten benches and eight raised beds, plant seedlings, upgrade old perennial growing spaces (including a small butterfly garden and memorial garden), and construct a pathway and outdoor classroom area. In addition to a large contingent of PT Holdings employee volunteers, members of the KidsGardening team, Bob’s Nature Nerds, and many school parents and staff pitched in. 

Over the course of the day, a largely empty courtyard space was transformed into a vibrant garden and outdoor classroom. As PT Holdings volunteers began cleaning up supplies and equipment, the Nature Nerds approached their new garden with wonder in their eyes. Students ran from bench to bench, trying each one out for size, then skipped across the long gravel pathway’s stepping stones to investigate the eight themed garden beds. The bed’s themes had been chosen based on their suggestions: two pollinator beds, two sensory beds, an herb bed, a root vegetable bed, a heirloom vegetable bed, and a bed of assorted vegetables. 

Within a week of the installation Bob reported that “the gardens have been enjoyed by the entire building… The outdoor classroom has been a huge success! Everyone has been out there reading. Today I worked with kindergarten and first grade, sharing the sensory garden.”

Bob wasn’t the only one excited about the use of the improved courtyard space. Fullerton students expressed their enthusiasm through a series of letters to the KidsGardening staff. “Thank you for making our courtyard prettier. Thank you for planting all these beautiful plants and flowers. Thanks for the beautiful pathway. Thank you for our benches,” wrote Giselle. While Mya said, “Thank you for this beautiful garden. Now I want a garden in my backyard. I like the flowers you planted… The garden make me so happy, that’s how much I love this.”

 

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