Combined effort plants new learning garden at Dan D. Rogers Elementary

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It rained hard the night before, but nothing could dampen the enthusiasm surrounding a new learning garden at Dan D. Rogers Elementary.

Nonprofit REAL School Gardens, along with corporate partners Texas Instruments, Fossil Group and FedEx, joined students, teachers and staff to install the new garden on Thursday, March 24.

Principal Lisa Lovato said the garden will bring to life lessons in science, mathematics and engineering, possibly planting the seeds of future careers – even jobs that don’t yet exist. The garden will also reinforce healthy lifestyles that are being promoted throughout the school.

Lovato sees the garden as a place to grow community spirit as well, through movie nights under the stars and hosting other events in the open-air space.

Brandon Segura, a prekindergarten teacher at Rogers, said the new garden will help expand his students’ horizons.

“We have a small garden in the classroom – 3’x2’ – they love it,” Segura said. “I know they are going to be really amped by getting a whole box to work on.” Seeing what other classes and grade levels grow will be exciting and challenge the students to work harder, he said.

Studies have shown that simply being outside is a great way to relax. “Our kids don’t know how to deal with stress,” he said.

Scott Fielle is a former teacher who is now executive director of the Texas Region for Region for REAL School Gardens.

Fielle said a school garden at a school where he taught was the single biggest influence on his teaching style. “If you could have computers, textbooks or a garden – pick one – I’d pick a garden every time,” he said.

He said that it is gratifying to see a diverse group of people – teachers, staff, students, parents and corporate partners – join together to work together on a single project.

For the students, the learning possibilities are endless and the effects can be lasting. “It gives them a chance to be outside and get that early connection to the environment,” he said.

The experience is rewarding for volunteers as well.

Teri Grosh is global employee engagement director for Texas Instruments.

“As far as the Dallas workforce and the community, this is where we started,” Grosh said. “We’ve been giving back to the community since the company’s inception. Anytime we have an opportunity like this, we put out a call for volunteers and fill every spot.”

Work that sparks an interest in STEM for kids is especially gratifying. Grosh said she had expected to show up for the workday to dig a few holes, but instead used a tape measure to lay out a grid for a mural. “Science is involved in everything we do,” she said.

Kara DeVita is head of global community engagement for Fossil Group. Having a project in Fossil’s backyard is special, she said and gives employees a chance to work together and with corporate neighbors such as TI.

The work itself tapped the same types of skills employees use on a daily basis. “For Fossil Group, it’s not that different,” DeVita said. “It’s working with their hands, being creative, one of the things we do every day.”

Several other Dallas ISD schools have gardens that were installed through REAL School Gardens. In fact, the planting of the organization’s 100th learning garden happened at another district school – Jerry Junkins Elementary – in November.

Fielle said that teachers and schools can sometimes feel isolated, but that the garden installation is a reminder that people care. “This is a big hug for the school,” he said. “It’s one of our favorite things to do.”

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