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Great Idea grant funds Secret Garden project


April 15, 2010 at 7:02 p.m.
Updated April 15, 2010 at 11:16 p.m.

Fourth-grader Destyny Salinas pulls a plant from its container to plant into a hole she dug. Students planted flowers at O'Connor Elementary School's Secret Garden with funds from the school district's Grants for Great Ideas.

Hidden in the inner courtyard of O'Connor Magnet Elementary School is what kindergarten teacher Misty Lucas calls the "Secret Garden."

Children and teachers came together Thursday to make the developmental playground a little prettier after Lucas received a special grant.

"You don't expect to see this when you come in," she said, walking toward her students, who were busy with shovels and potted milkweed, Mexican fire bush and creeping sunflowers.

Lucas received a $1,000 grant as a part of the Victoria School District's Grants for Great Ideas in December. It was Lucas' first time to apply for or receive a grant. She was one of 15 teachers to be selected for this round of grants and decided to do the project to spruce up the place.

"It was very dull," she said. "Lacking color, life, so I thought about making it as environmentally friendly as possible."

Lucas had the swing sets power washed and purchased more than 200 plants through Devereux Gardens that students planted in less than an hour.

"I like to feel the fresh air and help the environment around the world," said fourth-grader Jonathan Zelaya, 9, who helped plant Thursday. "I feel like I'm a part of this, and I like coming out here and helping."

Other students enjoyed the physical involvement as well.

"I get to help our playground and our environment be more pretty," said fourth-grader Madison Purdy, 10, with dirt on her fingertips. "I get to dig holes in the ground because my mom doesn't let me do that."

Lucas said the flowers will attract Monarch butterflies and hummingbirds and will provide an opportunity for hands-on learning.

"It's our way of creating a habitat for learning," she said.

The project also helps the kids, many of whom are low-income or at-risk, understand the process of planting and how plants grow.

"These days, kids are limited in their personal experiences... It provides them with the knowledge that everything is a process," she said. "You have to work for it."

Lucas hopes to eventually work with kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students to create a Secret Garden vegetable garden. She hopes each child will plant, grow and eventually harvest a vegetable. After the harvest, she plans to have the students make a "friendship soup" with the produce.

Until then, she said she's satisfied with the accomplishments.

"It was very rewarding," she said. "Just seeing them have so much fun - I enjoy that."



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