Flowers – and Students – Bloom in PSLA at Fowler’s School GreenhouseFor four days a week, Dave Sawyer spends his mornings in the garden he has been carefully cultivating for several years.
Then, right on schedule, the teenagers arrive.
For several hours each day, Mr. Sawyer shares his love of gardening with PSLA at Fowler student volunteers in their school greenhouse, which he helped create in what had previously been a science classroom, then storage room. Thanks to donations from the community, and the interest of PSLA students, the greenhouse has grown into an impressive garden space: complete with a banana tree, cacti, philodendrons, ferns, and more. This time of year, the students are also growing cilantro, basil, garlic, and even carrots! The plants are housed on wood racks, which were built by students in the school’s Electrical Trades program.
During their school lunch period, study halls, or breaks, many of the students who volunteer to help have developed a genuine green thumb!
“My mom grows flowers, so I’ve always been interested in gardening,” junior Shakaria Kimble shared. “My friends said I should check out the greenhouse, so I did… and now, I come in everyday! Last year, I helped grow tomatoes, and this year, I’m currently growing lettuce. I’ve learned that you have to be careful with plants – you can’t give them too much water or you’ll drown them!”
Shakaria and her peers spend their time in the greenhouse doing everything from replanting, rerooting, and repotting plants to watering, adding soil, and picking off dead leaves.
“It’s so relaxing in here with the plants,” senior Benedicte Owanga shared. “I saw Mr. Sawyer outside the school one day last year working with the plants. Then, I happened to walk past the greenhouse on my way to class the next day – I had never noticed it was here! During my lunch period, I came in, and I’ve been coming ever since. Last year, I grew a white geranium for my mom for Mother’s Day. This year, I’m growing a Coleus plant. I don’t like dirt and I’ve never been into gardening – but it’s so nice to see things grow. You start with just a container of dirt, but every day, you get to watch it grow and change into something pretty!”
“The kids are really involved with this,” Mr. Sawyer said. “You get them out of their element and show them what they can do… and they do it! A couple of them have started their own gardens at home – they’re so proud to show me pictures of their flowers and how they’ve lasted.”
In the spring, the greenhouse produces an abundance of vegetables, enabling the students to take home what they want and grow their own food. When the group recently re-landscaped a garden near their school’s entryway, they also had leftover sunflower seeds, which some students brought home to grown on their own. Each spring, they also grow flowers to give to kindergarteners at Frazer!
“One of the girls was so shy,” Mr. Sawyer recalled of one of his garden assistants. “When she told one of her teachers about the sunflowers she grew, it was so nice to see her come out of her shell – she was just proud as a peacock! The students and the plants, they all mature as time goes on. You can see it. In here, it’s a place for the kids to have fun – but not screw around, they know that. Sometimes, we’ll get one of the tougher kids in here, but they just mellow right out. They all just do their thing, and they’re so proud to bring their friends in and show them what they’ve done. It’s a ton of fun.”
This year, the gardening students have started voting on a teacher to receive their monthly ‘plant of the month’ award. They are also saving the seeds from last year’s dead plants, which they are currently drying out. In the spring, they plan to decorate envelopes with artwork and positive sayings, add seeds inside, and gift the envelopes to friends and classmates to help share the joy of gardening with others.
Thank you to Mr. Sawyer for his continued commitment to helping these PSLA students develop a love for gardening!