Nathaniel Hawthorne Elementary, which recently moved to a brand-new campus, hosted its school garden inauguration on Friday, May 6th.
Instructional Coach Rebecca Ajuluchukwu launched the garden project earlier this school year when students returned to campus for face-to-face learning after months of at-home classes.
“During the pandemic, I had a lot of free time on my hands and really started investing in my own garden at home,” Ajuluchukwu said. “When we got back to school, I realized that we had a lot of social-emotional changes with the students, and thought ‘if gardening brings me a lot of passion, it can bring a lot of joy and passion to others.’”
One of her first steps was to request one of the Grants for Innovative Teaching from the Junior League of Dallas, the local chapter of a nationwide organization of women volunteers who tackle social issues like poverty intervention, violence, and education, among other initiatives.
“We provide these specific grants to educators who are working on an innovative, creative project that would complement the kids’ education,” said Kiki Gao, Grants for Innovative Teaching chair for the Junior League of Dallas. “This project is one that really stood out from the beginning. The teachers were very passionate and it was very well thought out, so it was very easy to advocate for it.”
Hawthorne’s garden has several beds that are growing cantaloupes, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and other fruits and vegetables. The garden’s beds and stepping stones have been decorated by students. Ajuluchukwu organized a day for the scholars to help put the beds together, then asked parents to volunteer to put all the soil in the beds. Finally, she asked the Hawthorne Gardening Club to plant all the seeds at the beginning of April.
“Our garden is an extension of what’s going on inside our building,” she said. “It’s another learning space for the students, so we can teach the kids outdoors, in nature. It also connects to the social and emotional aspect because it’s a place where they can have peace and quiet outside while they learn. They have been taking ownership and they’re the ones who are always telling me what they see and what they’re finding, and that’s the best part.”