By: Laura Amos and Sharon Aron Baron
The school named after environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas will soon open a garden in her name. Students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are collaborating on Marjory’s Garden, a project that honors Douglas’ legacy and aims to promote conservation.
The idea for the project began when the portables were removed from the school, opening up a large plot of land. Assistant Principal Lucille Flynn put together a professional learning community of teachers to determine how the school should use the newly available land. Kyle Jeter, Tammy Orilio, Sean Simpson, and Adeena Teres began discussing the possibility of using the land for an environmental initiative. After touring a garden at Plantation High School, the group gained approval for the project from Principal Ty Thompson. Mr. Jeter, science teacher and the 2016 Broward County Teacher of the Year, said, “The idea then began to evolve into a full-fledged STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) project.”
In a unique collaboration, various clubs and faculty members at the school are taking ownership of different parts of the project. Jeter said the DECA club has agreed to run a plant nursery on the land, and culinary teacher Chef Ashley Kurth will plant a vegetable and herb garden. Engineering and ROTC classes are helping develop the land, and art teacher Lauren Rosa will focus on beautifying the garden. The PTSA provided a generous monetary contribution as did community leaders, such as Ken Cutler. The Coral Springs Rotary Club also helped by having the Gardening Angel Nursery clear some of the land for the project.
According to Cyril Yared, senior and past president of the DECA club, the Marjory’s Garden club is like “one big club which is made up of many small clubs.” Cyril and Annika Mursten, DECA’s Vice President of Events attended a board meeting and learned about the project, and they decided they wanted to get the DECA club involved. The club members are designing and managing the shade house and helping organize public relations efforts to get the message out to the community. Cyril says, “My main focus is helping to get members from the clubs and having them assist with the design, maintenance, and building of the garden.”
Cyril notes that the goals of the project are threefold: create an outdoor classroom, provide a platform that clubs and teachers can use for experiments and for growing food, and sustain itself via the profits from club members selling produce in the community. He continues, “It’s really bringing and connecting the whole school together from science to engineering and integrating that into the garden.”
Those involved in the project have a plan, but it will take three to five years to see it through. To achieve their goals, they are breaking the work up into small projects and setting realistic goals for each year. Right now the group is clearing and prepping the land to lay a foundation for what they want to do. The first steps of this preparation involved removing the mulch, laying down landscaping sheets, and building a structure over those sheets made out of PVC. This structure will serve as the shade house, in which club members are currently growing herbs such as basil and cilantro. In other areas, club members will build elevated box gardens, and each club will be responsible for one of those plots. These 15’x15’ box gardens will be used to grow seasonal flowers.
Sharon Cutler, Academy of Finance Teacher and DECA Advisor, hopes that for each community donation the group receives, a bed can be named after the person or organization making the donation.
Cutler said, “One of the things I love about this project is that it’s crossing all the curriculars across the whole entire school. Science, business, culinary, art, social studies, talking about environmental law, and just really pulling it all together on how we can use this garden to teach our students.”
Cutler explained that the DECA chapter isn’t just focusing on growing things in the garden, they are also working on some environmental awareness projects. Club members are thinking about how they can grow things, sell them, and put the profits back into the garden to plant other things and keep the cycle going. Cutler said, “It’s all about really getting the students involved and making it their own. When teachers try to create a project and it’s our project, then we don’t get ownership from the students.”
According to Jeter, the hope is that individual teachers will utilize their own gardens for long-term experiments on topics such as genetics and soil chemistry. He says the Marjory’s Garden club will also construct a hydroponic garden and that he hopes to eventually utilize green energy, such as solar panels, to operate the water pumps, adding an interesting technology component.
Said Jeter, “As you can tell, it is a complex project involving many different disciplines. Hopefully, it will come together into a project that benefits MSD students for many years to come!”