Thursday, June 19, 2014

Being Crazy With Landscaping

plantingIn Being a Mom from Sioux's Page, Sioux asked,

Is there something you've done/considered in the past that made your friends or family look at you like you're crazy?

I love blogging prompts from this blog!! (Did I tell you I was one of her biggest fans!) And I love relating her prompts to my classroom.

There are many things I’ve done that just had my family shaking their heads. For instance, the time I wanted to teach my student how to frame pictures or when we studied vermiculture (worm farming) first hand for a whole year. There are many examples but I’m going to mention only one of them in this post.

My students were in a self-contained special education program and in the past had attended the vocational center to learn skills for employment. Over time, the center became a “career and technology” center geared for students who were going to college and not my students who didn’t even receive a regular high school diploma. They were no longer invited to learn skills like brick masonry, auto collision, auto mechanics, carpentry and wood working, and horticulture.

I was so disappointed for my students that I wrote a grant for my students to learn and apply horticulture skills at the main school site. Keep in mind that I knew very little about horticulture or landscaping but was willing to learn alongside my students. I worked with another special education teacher who had the training in horticulture and we combined our classes for activities.

In order to get the grant, we had to have a plan of action. We decided we would landscape the front of the school which included planting trees and bushes. After getting approval from the administration, we priced equipment, supplies, and materials we would need. Students learned how to price different companies and create a work budget and a work timeline.

When we won the grant, the real work began. I assigned a foreman (who loved working outdoors and had some experience with his dad at home with working in the yard). Different people had different assignments and willingly got into the project.

The fun began when we had to dig 30 holes, three feet deep and three feet in diameter. I joined right in so I could be an example for my students and realized why I became a teacher instead of a landscaper! I came home each night with blisters on my hands because we dug all those holes by hand! Then when the trees were delivered by a crane and put in each hole, many of the general ed students were curious as to what we were doing. Many asked my students how they could get into my classes (which made my student’s self-esteem shoot right out of the sky!) We also planted azaleas and juniper bushes near the building.

Before winter, we brought in mulch and mulched everything we planted! I can’t tell you how many days I came home filthy and exhausted but I felt so thrilled. My students learned new things every day. They learned about following directions, helping others, budgets, planting, landscaping, and working with others.

Many of my students said it was the best year of their lives! They were the stars of the school for the first time. Others were wishing they could be in their classes instead of the other way around.

It was a success from all viewpoints! I still hear from students decades later about how great that whole project was. Those trees are still there and I’m so proud of my students.

But during that year, my family and friends just saw me or heard about the project and just shook their heads. When I want to try a new project, I tend to jump in with both feet. Sometimes it is a success and sometimes it is just a life experience to learn from. Either way, I don’t regret a minute of it!

Have you done something crazy? Please share!

Image: 'birth tree: planting a snow bell'
Found on


Sioux Roslawski said...

Pat--Our school has a community garden, so I know how much your students learned and how much fun they had.

I've done papier mache in my classroom before, but the really crazy part was that one year I was in a trailer, and we had to haul in the water we needed. Also, the kids were so enthusiastic and excited, there were flecks of flour and water paste all over the wall paneling.

Molly said...

Congratulations on your gardening success. I have a very fond memory of planting a garden in Kindergarten.