Nobody likes a “portable” classroom, basically a stopgap measure for school over-crowding that amputates the kids and their teachers from the body of the school as a whole. It can be an isolating and disconnecting experience foisted upon a school by a cash-strapped district such as Seattle’s, which can’t find enough money to balance the budget this year without closing schools and cutting staff.
At my daughter’s school, an extra class “bubble” got added last year and there simply weren’t enough rooms left in the school to house them. So, the portable which had housed the music program was re-purposed as a 4th grade classroom and the school had to decide how to help the students there feel really a part of the whole.
Happily, parents and staff worked hard to secure grant money and donations to transform this space into a “green” classroom, and the kids and their families are putting in a lot of sweat equity to make it happen. One major project has been the addition of a bamboo garden to screen the exposed outbuilding, provide shade and help mitigate pollution caused by fume-belching school buses and other vehicles. This ties in directly with the class’s overall theme of study this year, Bamboo and Sustainable Resources.
Back in the fall, the kids visited Boo-Shoot Gardens bamboo nursery in Mt. Vernon, WA, to learn about bamboo, perform tissue cultures, and come home with their very own bamboo plants. Boo-Shoot generously donated further plants for the school garden.
For weeks, the bamboo garden (which had to be made on top of existing playground blacktop) has been taking shape. First, the galvanized stock tanks were delivered.
Then, a giant pile of manure-rich soil/compost was delivered (and classroom ambassadors visited the younger grades to respectfully request they not play in it, for obvious reasons). Finally, the tanks were laid out and plastic wood benches (with bases that raise the tanks up off the ground to allow drainage) were attached.
Finally, soil added, the bamboo arrived and students and volunteers planted several varieties this past week. I was there just as they were finishing up (sans camera, alas) – the look of pride on their faces was priceless. Their singing teacher came out with her guitar and they consecrated the garden with a few songs. It was truly inspiring.
When you sit on the bench and breeze comes along, you can close your eyes and feel that you are in the high mountains of China, watching for a panda to come along.
Yellowish culms of Bissets bamboo (Phyllostachys bissetii), a running type so good thing it’s in a container, will eventually turn greener as they mature.
Another variety with very skinny culms, for now at least. The plant tags had been removed, so I’m sorry that I don’t know what this one is.
I am so happy that our school places such a high value on community and earth stewardship in addition to the three R’s. I hope other schools will encourage their kids to take up shovels and dig in the dirt a little bit. Maybe the class that is helping out in the White House garden will help to inspire more school gardening projects around the nation and the world!