When I began as a principal of McCall Elementary five years ago, I had so many dreams and visions for our campus. I was raring to go and ready to begin making my difference immediately. As a leader, you know that you have to be purposeful and patient about what rolls out as leadership changes on a campus; the climate of a campus is a delicate balance and you do not want to move too fast and upset the balance. So, many of my ideas had to wait and be fostered quietly, slowly, and with a great deal of patience before coming to life. One component of instruction that I wanted to bring to McCall was a garden. A garden is a BIG undertaking. A garden was a vision and a dream which is now a living, active component at McCall!
So, how did we go from an idea five years ago to a working garden today, March 30, 2017? It was a long journey! I worked my first two years establishing relationships with my teachers and community. As teachers got to know me and my philosophy, they began to know that active learning makes my heart sing--the more engaged the kids are, the more they take from a learning experience. I heard a lot of, "Wouldn't a garden be a great way to teach science and responsibility for the kids? ". Well, yes, yes it would and I would love it and the kids would love it, but I knew we had a LOT more work fundamentally to do in the classrooms before I could foster learning outside the classroom walls. Additionally, while the teachers who stepped forward were passionate about leading a committee to make a garden happen, I knew from my research, that this was really a project that required a much more comprehensive group of adults in order to make this dream a reality for McCall. For years, we just did not have much more than just our teachers and myself excited about a garden project, so the timing just was not right for us to start one. Again, we had plenty to keep us busy inside the building of McCall, so it was always something that was a high desire but on the back burner of importance.
Two years ago, a quiet volunteer from our PTA began a discussion about her passion and desire to incorporate that at McCall: Jennifer Garvin (pictured below in the blue denim ball cap) wanted to write some grants to get a garden installed at McCall. BINGO. I knew we just could not tackle the project without a passionate person willing to drive us, Jennifer was just what I had patiently been waiting for the last several years. I knew that our teachers would be fully supportive of a garden, and I also knew that all we had invested inside our classrooms would be ready to implement in a garden setting and that the kids would love it. I encouraged Jennifer to start writing and submitting grants.
Jennifer worked so hard on so many grants and talked with so many individual businesses within Plano to garner an interest in our garden project. In those discussions, she stumbled upon Whole Foods. Whole Foods was opening a new store in Richardson and wanted to partner with a school for a garden. Last spring is where our project really took off. I was invited, due to Jennifer Garvin's networking and relationship building, to be a part of their Grand Opening and receive seed money to start our garden. I wrote about that event here: http://stacykimbriel.blogspot.com/2016/04/a-healthy-pta.html#comment-form. Whole Food's generosity and interest allowed us to have a viable project, which then allowed us to have a credible project and gain interest from Lowe's Home Improvement store in Plano. Lowe's donated manpower and the construction materials to get our perimeter established and all of our raised beds built. In addition, Lowe's provided the fence, cobblestones, gravel walkway, garden shed, and tools. The picture below of our Lowe's crew last fall building the beds of the garden.
Once the beds were built, it was time to get serious about how to make the garden a classroom space to be used to its maximum advantage. Kelly Hopper, another fabulous PTA volunteer with a passion for gardening, joined in Jennifer's leadership and the two have developed a Google Drive of lessons and ideas that would make any curriculum department salivate over. I just couldn't believe how many gifts kept rising to the top of this journey. In addition, they contacted Master Gardners across the city and solicited their ideas in addition to their vast ones. We have had so many volunteers across the span of this project that I cannot even name all of them who have helped us get to spring planting season. So, the stage was set, all we had to do was get the teachers to plan ahead to their spring projects and wait for the season to begin.
Just before Spring Break, Mrs. Hopper and Mrs. MacDonald worked to get the soil in the beds balanced and prepared for the spring planting. They made sure that each bed was labeled with a grade level marker and a garden gnome placed in each bed. The kids began to get very excited about the development of the garden and the fun the spring was promising to bring.
As of today, the majority of our grades have been out to plant and begin to make observations of the garden. We have sunflowers beginning to grow and a promise of some radishes coming up soon. The kids are excited about tending the garden and their responsibilities to make sure that they have something to harvest in the upcoming weeks. The journey to our garden was years in the making, but I believe that wait is worth it in the end. I could not be more proud of a project than I am of this one. So many people came together for the good of the kids, that it really is satisfying to witness. Come by and see our blossoming garden anytime!