My second garden club group is coming to an end. I have mixed feelings about letting it go. Last week, I turned in my resignation to the principal at a local elementary school where I have served as a co-curricular advisor for their garden club. I started in the fall of 2017 and will end June 30th this year, having completed two school years with this organization. October of 2017, when I started as the advisor for this club, signified the first time in over twenty years that I was a paid employee. To me, it was a big deal, even if the salary was not what I had hoped. I came with 13 years of experience having founded and facilitated a previous garden club at another elementary school in my home district. And, I was welcomed with open arms at this new school, by both staff and students, alike.
Last year was a full year of trial and error, learning and growing, beautification and maintenance. The gardens at this school are extensive and very, very beautiful. However, it took many hours of maintenance to keep them looking well cared for and welcoming. You can see the results of our efforts in several of the photos below. The group only had five students enrolled last year. This year, we had 23 sign up! That is quite a bit of growth for one year of activity. I think my proudest moment was the completion of our spring planting that involved all 465 students!
There were many ‘aha’ moments for me with this club last year. One was that I was a new person in a new system, having to navigate new communication patterns, student as well as teacher needs, and building policies. Another was seeing myself teach for the first time! One of my final graduate school courses was on writing EE curriculum and carrying out that plan out as a lesson. I took this extremely seriously and ended up with 45 minutes of recorded teaching! Little did I realize that my professor only wanted 2-3 minutes for the assignment! Yet, I learned from watching myself. New teachers have to do this as a requirement of program completion and licensure now. I am sure most consider it an inconvenience and anxiety provoking. To be honest, I was not thrilled about it either – mostly because of logistical reasons. And, I am sure there are ways the process can be manipulated, so it is not foolproof or highly indicative one’s complete set of teaching skills. But, if you are an educator and have never watched yourself teach, I would highly recommend it! Another great moment came this fall at the open house when a student who was in club last year appeared with his mom and a photograph of him standing next to a seven foot tall sunflower! It was from a seed we had started in club at the end of last year! His care (and what he had learned) was rewarded! He was very proud of his HUGE sunflower plant!
Thus, the decision to leave this position has not come lightly. But, I am resigning because I started another job – one for which I am highly qualified and wish to do. I tend to give 110% to the “things” in life in which I am given charge and do not see how I can adequately care for the school’s garden and garden club students as well as provide community outreach and education for my new position. Thus, I let the principal know last week that I would be finished as her Garden Club Advisor at the end of June.
Today, I have garden club meeting. Our weather, as is common in Wisconsin, has thrown me a couple of curves. The first was that I needed to get there – my driveway is a hazard and my husband will have to help me out before I can go. My plan for club was to head outside to start cleaning up the garden beds. This plan started to be foiled last night when it began sleeting and the wind picked up. So, I searched for a new project that the students might be excited about doing. It did not take me long to find a recipe for SEED Bombs!
With all necessary materials, I am set to make Milkweed Seed Bombs with my garden club students this afternoon! I am excited about this project and think they will be too!
I have discovered I am most happy when planning lessons that I know will engage and inspire students to care for our earth. It is how my time is best spent, and where my most useful skills are, in my opinion! Once again, I know I will miss the enthusiasm of the students when garden club is over.