Growing tools for learning
Salvador Gonzalez holds his class' pumpkin plucked from the school's garden during an Oct. 23 dedication ceremony for the Gardeen of Wisdom at Mechanics Grove School. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
To view more photos of the Oct. 23 event in the garden, visit www.mundelein.suntimes.com
Updated: November 2, 2012 10:36AM
MUNDELEIN — Third-graders at Mechanics Grove Elementary School got their first close look recently at their school’s new Garden of Wisdom.
The garden was named last year when students of all ages planted the garden’s first seeds. Flowers already bloomed, but vegetables were due any day.
With seven classes seated in and around the garden Oct. 23, one third-grader from each class was sent to pick a pumpkin for his or her classroom.
“Learning is so much better when it’s hands-on,” said Mary Beth Anderson, adviser to the school’s garden club. “The kids get so excited to see something they planted grow into a real-life green plant they can touch. Books are great and grow the imagination, but a living garden is a finished product.”
Academically, fourth- and fifth-grade classes have already done science units in the garden, leaving the third-graders time before the cold weather.
Mary Hecht’s third-grade class is doing a series of observations in the garden, encouraging students to note what they see living or growing near the plants in the garden.
“Spiders and other insects will often grow their home on vegetation, and other plans will grow in shaded area,” Hecht said. “Some kids are even observing the tree, and I ask them why birds and squirrels would want to live or land on the branches.”
Colder weather creates an urgency for the plants to reproduce. Soon, Hecht’s third-graders will take notes on where seeds are dropping. Some of the seeds will be harvested for later planting.
For the students who transferred from Lincoln School to Mechanics Grove, this is not new. The garden was a thriving after-school activity and science class project for many years before Lincoln closed in May 2011 — a response to declining enrollment districtwide.
Mechanics Grove Principal Kathleen Miller and Mundelein landscaper John Weiler discussed bringing a garden to Mechanics Grove.
Weiler, who owns JMW Landscaping, gathered a crew and spent three weeks reconstructing the garden so it would have space for classes, flow with the surrounding school building and utilize both shade and sunny areas.
“Curiosity and learning go hand-in-hand,” said Weiler, whose wife, Kathy, is a secretary at nearby Carl Sandburg Middle School. “This garden has something for everyone to find interesting.”
The school spent close to $5,000 on the garden, which would have cost $11,000 without donations from JMW Landscaping, other local businesses and revenue from selling name engraved bricks.
“Finding innovative ways to make learning fun is what’s important here at District 75,” Miller said.
After its completion last year, students learned about planting and irrigation before school ended. For this year’s third-graders, the Oct. 23 ceremony was their first experience in the Garden of Wisdom.
Former students Joseph Clow and Jack Frane of Boy Scout Troop 383 weeded the garden periodically throughout the summer. Approximately 15 percent of the plant life growing in the garden is perennial, allowing students to get their hands dirty each year.