Dommerich Community Garden Thrives

Dommerich Elementary School’s community garden is thriving, providing students a place to learn and to be inspired.

Here is a history of the garden—and how it grew—provided by the school:

Through a desire to obtain a grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation to fund a school garden, Dommerich Elementary School formed a faculty garden committee in the 2008-2009 school year to begin formulating a vision for an outdoor garden classroom for our school and to write the grant proposal. Upon hearing the news that we received the grant, we had to delay the project until our new school building was completed and we could have a clear idea of where we wanted to have it built. As we moved into our new building, we quickly realized that a project of this size would be more achievable with the help of community members and parents currently working in the field of construction, irrigation, architecture and possibly a few Eagle Scout projects! Upon meeting with this group of community members, parents, and our Boy Scout, we felt empowered to get this project done well!

This community garden was the Eagle Project of David Rotenberger (2010) and the pergola was the project of Cliff Panos (2012). Both boys are alumnae of Dommerich Elementary School. The construction of the garden took place during the months of July and August of 2010. Over 50 volunteers from the community came to help work during this six weeks time period! The construction of the pergola took place during the 2011-2012 school year.

We have seven beds that are 4×16 feet and each grade level has one of the beds. We also have one bed for the YMCA after school program. We have formed a PTA committee that helps the teachers with planting, composting, maintaining the garden, and assisting with class visits to the garden. In addition, this committee works closely with the teachers to plan and coordinate Family Garden Day and Garden Recognition Evening.

This new space has created a whole new arena for student participation and hands-on learning. Each grade level submits their requests for plants based on the benchmarks that they are required to teach. We have three growing seasons each year. Students are motivated and excited! Through frequent visits to the garden, students are involved in lesson studies that they can see growing before their eyes. For example, in the fall Kindergarten grew a “Pizza Garden” which incorporated our Science Benchmarks based on our study of The Five Senses. Students helped plant, harvest and prepare a pizza with the homegrown ingredients of tomatoes, basil, oregano, and prepared homemade pizzas in their classroom.

Students have had many new experiences and have learned new skills such as: preparing the soil, measuring the distance between seeds or seedlings, learning the parts of plants, learning about how insects and pollination affect the amount of vegetables that are produced, which plants are native to our state, working to protect plants during the freezing weather, tasting the fresh produce, seeing how the introduction of bird baths in the area can help reduce the amount of insect pests, etc.

The students love this place because they are tending it, and it belongs to them! It is a place of peacefulness and inspiration for reading and writing poetry as well. It is so refreshing to have an outdoor space like this and to see the joy in the children’s faces! We are so thankful to the Winter Park Health Foundation for making this all possible — at Dommerich Elementary School Garden!