School, university partnership to give back to community

Soon Myers Park Traditional School will be home to summer squash, cucumbers, green beans and tomatoes thanks to a new partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council at Queens University of Charlotte.

The two schools have teamed up and are working for the good of the community, using rundown garden beds on Myers Park Traditional’s campus to plant an organic vertical community garden. Students at Queens approached elementary school administrators in April. It’s the first year for the U.S. Green Building Council, or USGBC, at Queens and the project-based group was looking for ways to do a sustainable, green building community project.

“I originally started investigating using the university’s greenhouse, but I was told at this time we cannot use it,” said Jennifer Reid, the club’s vice president and a student in the Queens adult program. “But Myers Park Traditional already has two raised bed gardens that have been sitting there unoccupied, just filled with weeds and stuff.”

So she met with Myers Park Traditional principal, Lane Price, who was on board for the university/school partnership and then with Bill Nichols, vice president of campus services for Queens to ensure maintenance of the beds was plausible.

With everyone on board, a new collaboration was born – a partnership both parties hope will last for years to come.

Price passed the project to Myers Park Traditional science teacher Julia Magdzinski, who has been working closely with her second- and third-grade students at the school to plant, water and nurture the young seedlings in preparation to move them outside into the garden beds June 7, the students’ last day of school.

“I wanted (to do the project) with that age group because they are the ones that will really see the gardens grow,” Magdzinski said. “And the third-graders do a plant unit. It’s one thing when we do our plant unit to see them memorize the parts of the plant, but it really helps them to see something from start to finish and see the end result.”

Along with vegetables, the students also are raising rosemary, oregano and thyme. They take turns watering the plants throughout the week.

In the meantime, five students from Queens have been working to get the garden beds ready for planting day. With donations from Lowe’s Home Improvement store and Myers Park Traditional’s parent-teacher group, the five students, including Reid, have prepped the garden beds, made trellises to support vertical growth to better utilize the limited amount of space and made signs to encourage community members to get involved, too.

“We are also inviting the community to come help. We want to pull in the neighbors of that community to come and be part of it. We would love for them to help and give us input,” Reid said, adding harvest from the garden will be distributed to those who have helped along the way and at times, like the summer months, may be donated to local charities or food banks.

On Friday, June 7, Queens students will be at Myers Park Traditional from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. for a kick-off party that will give the elementary students a chance to plant their seedlings. Reid said community members also are invited to attend and can use the event to sign up to help maintain the garden while school’s out for summer. Students and parents already have responded and will help volunteer over the summer.

“I see this as being the beginning stages of science-based curriculum. I see it opening ideas to leadership roles between the two schools,” Reid said. “And it also is promoting healthy eating habits and then giving back to the community. I think we all need to be more well-rounded in terms of giving. Hopefully the students will be inspired.”

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