EAST LIVERPOOL - Thanks to a grant from Lowe's, LaCroft Elementary teachers Carolyn Allison and Janis Pridemore have been able to bring the Asian culture home.
It all started when the teachers visited North Elementary. There, they saw the school's garden there. They agreed it would be a nice addition at LaCroft so they decided to apply for the Lowe's Toolbox for Education grant - a division of the Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation.
"We thought it would be great to have a new garden to go along with our new building," Pridemore stated.
Students in Mrs. Reash’s kindergarten class performed on the stage in the Asian garden during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Photo by Pam Anthony)
Allison said she believed it would be a great way to "extend the outdoor learning environment for the students."
The Asian garden theme was chosen to bring cultural awareness to the students. A portion of the grant money was used to purchase books about Japan to further educate the children.
According to Pridemore, the grant process is a lengthy task. The two educators met several times to fine tune the application and the plans for the garden. The application was completed in October 2010 and was approved May 2011.
"We had one year to complete the project after the grant was awarded and we did," Allison added.
The grant required the teachers to plan and design the garden. Pridemore noted the clerk at the Lowe's help desk aided in the process by coordinating what supplies would be needed.
Further help was given by speaking with the construction teacher at East Liverpool High School, Ed Adamson. He was able to help cut costs by using a similar design as the garden at North. Those savings were used to incorporate additional supplies. Students have also chipped in by participating in a penny drive that raised more than $600.
Supplies were delivered and construction was able to begin in August 2011.
"It was a great day when we saw that Lowe's truck pull in," Allison recalled. Pridemore agreed, "We thought, wow, this is really happening."
Approximately 80 percent of the construction was completed before school began with the help of Adamson's construction students. Rich Rice, landscaping teacher at East Liverpool High School, brought his students to assist in the landscaping.
"The students came not only during the day but on their own time after school as well," Allison stated.
An important requirement of the grant is to include community volunteers. Members of the East Liverpool/Calcutta Area Garden Club helped by suggesting types of plants to be incorporated in the garden. "Six types of plants in the garden are Asian in nature," Allison noted.
Once construction was completed, it was time to begin planting. The LaCroft Elementary PTA helped students plant flowers. The teachers made sure to include planter boxes for each grade level. The students also will assist in maintaining the garden.
A ceremony was held at the end of the school year to celebrate the garden's completion. The students spent a couple of weeks learning about the Asian culture. Jim Bean, music teacher, taught children songs that were performed at the celebration. The curriculum connection continued in art class as well. Wendy Sternagle, art teacher, created Chinese dragons and other Asian crafts with the students.
Members of the garden club returned for the ceremony. Cathy Wollam and Doris Musselman spoke to students throughout the day about proper planting techniques.
During the ceremony, LaCroft Elementary principal Linda Lindsey performed the ribbon cutting. Allison stated, "Mrs. Lindsey has been very supportive and encouraging throughout the whole process."
Allison and Pridemore are not quite finished with the garden, however. They would both like to add some Asian statues and other decorations to give it a more ethnic feel. A conservation rain barrel will be added to teach the students about conserving water and recycling.
Part of the garden has a stage which students are able to use as a reading theater. The teachers discussed implicating a schedule so all classrooms may be able to get their share of time in the garden.
As a new school year quickly approaches, teachers throughout the school will be encouraged to use the garden. "I'm thrilled when I see classes out there," Pridemore said.
"I'm anxious to see what it will look like in the fall," Allison added.