PHOTOS: Columbia HS students design and plant vibrant new wildflower garden


Columbia High School students recently designed and planted a wildflower garden, under the guidance of Horticulture Club teacher and counselor Amy Biasucci, who writes that she got the inspiration for the garden during a summer trip to England and Scotland. Here are excerpts, edited for length, from Biasucci’s story of the birth of the garden:

“At the start of the 2021-2022 school year, several CHS students approached me independently because they heard that I was the Horticulture Club advisor before the pandemic and school closures. After the hardships and exhaustion of the virtual school year, I really had no intention of resurrecting this particular club, but I was struck by the enthusiasm and number of students wanting to learn how to garden and take care of the plants. Maybe it was indeed time to prepare the ground for a new season, sow seeds of hope and nurture new life at school.

I reached out to the SOMA Gardening and Buy Nothing communities on Facebook asking for donations of gardening tools, soil, seeds, gloves; really whatever people were willing to give. The generosity of these groups was overwhelming and soon we were receiving giant bags of soil, live plants, packets of seeds, brand new boots of gardening gloves, trowels, shovels and, most importantly, members of the community offering their time and knowledge. Our club was up and running!

CHS students plan their wildflower garden

I also got a message from one of my neighbors down the street, Tekla Pontius-Courtney…a 2005 Columbia High School alumnus who went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Botany from the University of Toronto. She went on to earn a Masters in Landscape Architecture from Rutgers University and is currently a local landscaper. Tekla came up with a wonderful project for the club, now called CHS Gardening Club. She offered her expertise, time, energy and over a thousand young plants to build a regenerative and functionally diverse wildflower garden that would support pollinating insects, birds and other wildlife, while promoting the formation of healthy soil.. The garden would also be designed to be aesthetically pleasing and welcoming to students, staff and community members due to the intentional pattern of flower colors, plant heights and varying natural textures. The club said yes!

We undertook a series of planning sessions throughout the winter. Tekla brought landscape architectural planning sheets on which the front lawn of the CHS was drawn to scale. She taught Garden Club students to conceptualize and design a garden habitat with appropriately scaled measurements and tools, to use the correct scientific names of plants, to place plants according to the flowering season of each and to understand the symbiotic relationships that would occur between each species. Club members were able to use carefully painted wooden beads representing the color of the flowers to create a physical model of our future garden.

CHS Wildflower Garden

The principal, Mr. Frank Sanchez, championed our ideas and the complete and detailed plan was approved by the school board.

In May, it was time to get your hands dirty. The first and biggest job was the removal of 650 square feet of sod. It was an “everyone on deck” mission and I had to convince teenagers in the spring to dig up grass under the scorching sun. … The environmental science course also contributed to innovating during the lessons. Over the weekend, we had all made a big dent in the work to be done, but we were far from done. Word of our project spread, and on a Saturday and Sunday at the end of May, we had a wonderful gathering of students who pitched in and got really muddy. MAC (Minority Achievement Committee) scholarship recipients were numerous and students from the Garden Club and CHS Environmental Club brought their friends. Passers-by wondered what was going on, then went back to digging! The Children’s Study Team referred students who were ready and willing to work hard. It became a wonderful community of children, who didn’t necessarily know each other, working together, learning from each other and the importance of habitat restoration. The students organized themselves into teams: the wheelbarrow team, the sod removal team, the soil preparation team and the planters. We also had music!

Since so many students came to help and worked for hours and hours, we were ready to start planting two weeks earlier than planned! Neither Tekla nor I could believe it happened so quickly and easily.

One of the most rewarding aspects of being an educator is witnessing first-hand how students express their thoughts. I watched a group of students, each from a different club, introduce themselves to each other and chat as they dig up clumps of grass and scavenge soil. As they examined every tiny creature they found in the ground, they asked questions about each one’s life and experiences and looked to me for answers about insects and grubs. They planted their own seeds of compassion and community and reaped a harvest of knowledge and rewards; physical, emotional and intellectual. Each student learned how to handle, prepare and plant the clods or seedlings. As they continued to work, one student stopped, looked around, and sighed, “I can’t wait to see this garden grow!”

CHS Wildflower Garden

These are the moments that put everything into perspective. These students are now part of a legacy. The Columbia High School Wildflower Garden will nurture them for their remaining years here as well as all future generations to come behind them. The students will cultivate and take care of the garden. Wildflowers will also support vital insect populations that the earth desperately needs to survive. In the future, this garden will grow with our students and be a model of sustainability in suburban landscapes. We plan to use the garden as an educational resource not only for biology and environmental science classes, but also for students in fine arts, architecture and design, literature, mathematics and many other fields of study. studies. Countless students stopped to ask what we were doing and so began many organic learning moments on concepts such as pollination, co-evolution, sustainability, loam soil and regenerative agriculture, grubs, worms, butterflies and, of course, birds and bees.

CHS Wildflower Garden

We also want the garden to be a resource for community members interested in converting lawns, aka ecological deserts, into functional habitats. There will be endless opportunities for learning through our garden and we hope that the roots that have been planted this year will support and foster the growth of restorative gardening practices in our cities…

If you know of any students, staff or members of the community who would like to get involved in the CHS wildflower garden, garden club or environmental club, or if you are a staff member who would like to contribute your classes in the garden, please send a note to Amy Biasucci [email protected]. And please come visit the garden!


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