24 July 2010 | Posted inBlog News & Updates
Posted by Jeannette
It was a hot day in St. Louis and I’m not just talking about the weather! Today we had our first community work day for the Dewey School Learning Garden, a project near and dear to my heart. About a year ago, the kids started back to school on a hot August day, much like today and I noticed that the playground (a sea of asphalt) wasn’t helping the situation. I started paying attention to the fact that in some places, plants were starting to crop up in broken spots and on rainy days, the bottom corner of the playground became what is affectionately known as “Dewey Falls.” Working in the Planning Group as I do, I thought surely someone around here would have some ideas on what could be done to help the heat island, water, safety and aesthetics of the situation and the Dewey School RetroFIT was born.
I can go into more details about the evolution of the project, but suffice it to say, that over the course of the year and with an amazing partnership with Clayco, Concrete Strategies, the St. Louis Public School System and the Dewey PTO community, we broke ground and are making great progress on the first phase of the master plan: a learning garden to grow vegetables and an outdoor classroom area to learn about where our food comes from, water cycles, etc. The garden is fully equipped with rain barrels, donated by the River DesPeres Watershed Coalition, and we’re hoping to get one of Gateway Greening’s grants to help us build on the curriculum and reach of the project.
The community partnership to make this happen is really special and one of the best aspects of this project. To me, today, seeing all the teachers, parents, kids and my fellow HOKers working together (check out more pics here) was just like icing on the cake. Or, maybe fresh baked chocolate chip cookies dipped in milk. Or maybe hashbrowns from Waffle House (scattered, smothered, covered and diced). But I digress.
I’m just always impressed with the people I work with. Watching Julia project manage, organize and devote the little free time she has (being a working mother of 3) to this is inspiring. She has worked closely with Clayco every day to coordinate all of the site prep and concrete they are so generously donating. Matt, whom you already know from the Freno rain garden system, is one of the most creative, talented and just all over superstar people you could ever meet. He has been mentoring and co-creating the trellis with the interns, also juggling incredible project demands and family with what I am sure seems like an endless list of extra-curriculars he gets roped into. The interns, all of them are fabulous. I am so impressed with their ability to secure donations and coordinate materials, signage and just jump right into this effort with that “can do” attitude that just has that way of making energy for everyone involved.
Of course, I could go on and on about everyone and just how amazing it is to see this idea start to come to life. Albeit, a little scary to see the playground all torn up like this just a few weeks before school is starting, but I know that we can get it done. I can’t wait until I am writing to share the pictures and moments of the first plants going into the ground, the first class out in the space and the first smiles of “a-ha” from all the happy little faces!