Friday, January 28, 2011

Good work: beautify a school

Is it easier to learn in a setting that obviously values beauty and creativity? Or to put it another way, would you prefer to send your child (or your neighbors' kids) to a school surrounded by asphalt and concrete or to one surrounded by well-tended fruit trees and pretty flowering shrubs? Well, duh!

Thing is, not all schools have the staff or budget to take care of pretty flowers and such. That's where volunteers can help. A few years ago, our garden club (SCLH Garden Club) made a connection with teachers at Lincoln's Twelve Bridges Elementary School.

First, local ranchers donated some small fruit trees—apples, peaches, pears and the like, some three dozen in all. But like a well-raised child, every tree needs care and attention, so today the garden club is back with loppers and shears to prune all 36 trees. Whew!

Two days beforehand, we got a quick review of pruning techniques from a local nurseryman, Scott, of Loomis' High Hand Nursery. "Plants teach us a lot," he believes. "They've taught me patience and toughness, with their ability to survive," notes Scott. "And they've taught me to think about what could be," he adds.

It's a foggy, cold morning, but our small band of volunteers (led by Joyce) is cheerful and eager. After some quick reminders from Mr. Toy, the science teacher and from Beverley (didn't get her last name), another teacher at this elementary school, we're ready to tackle the trees. "Remember to prune halfway up the new growth," says Beverley. "Don't go too far," she notes with a laugh.

I notice one gal pruning an apple tree with a long, yellow handled trimmer; the unusual part is, she has a baby in a carrier on her back. "Yep, she's my little helper," says Mrs. Volmer. You can't start 'em too young, when it comes to volunteering volunteering!

After a mornings' work, our little group has accomplished its mission. I look at the neatly trimmed branches, now bare against the winter sky, and think about the possibility of this tiny orchard: of luscious, ripe peaches or bright red apples. And about the possibilities inherent in the young students who might learn the lessons plants—and beautiful surroundings—can teach us all.
Get involved:
Easy. Call your local school and just ask when the next fundraiser is, and step up to buy baked goods or make a donation directly. Check out Project Appleseed, a national campaign for public school improvement, or the National Coalition for Parent Involvement.

Harder. Want to help out at Twelve Bridges? Check out their website. If you're a parent or adult with relatives in any school, pick up the phone and call their school to ask what you can do to help. Parental involvement is a key factor in high-performing schools. You may be asked to help in the classroom by assembling paperwork, by making photocopies, or cleaning up toys used during class breaks (you may be asked to undergo a background check if you plan to work with kids directly--it's for the kids' safety). Or there may be other work needed; let them know if you have special skills. Read more.

Disclaimer: Note that we don't endorse any organization, but we encourage you to carefully look into any group that you plan to donate time or money to.

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COPYRIGHT Lora Finnegan 2008-2009

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