New Community Garden Sprouts to Life on Daniel Island
An island resident in search of a place to put her green thumb to work is responsible for taking the lead in creating a wonderful new amenity for our community and a valuable resource for students at the Daniel Island School.
Dedicated in May, the new Daniel Island School and Community Garden at the Daniel Island School has been in the works since 2012, when island resident Jacqueline Gowe secured a $5,000 grant from the Daniel Island Community Fund to start a simple community garden. After spending several years searching for the right location for the project she learned that the Daniel Island School was finding it difficult to keep up its own school garden and was looking for parent volunteers to help. Gowe and fellow resident Cynthia Rumph, along with a small team of volunteers, joined forces and started working on a plan to save the school garden.
“After we worked on the school garden for a few months, I approached the principal, Marty French, about the idea of putting the community garden on school property together in the space where the school garden was,” Gowe said.
The school and school district agreed, and the team got to work redesigning the garden and removing many of the beds that were in disrepair.
The garden’s design uses the circular center of the space as a focal point. In addition to community garden plots, it includes features like native plants, a butterfly garden, a sensory garden catered toward sight, smell and touch, a composting station, and other features that encourage students to interact in the space. A team of garden volunteers is working with teachers and students to create lessons that use the garden environment as a hands-on resource for learning in all subjects, from science and biology to writing, poetry, health, history and even music and the arts.
Teachers at the school began incorporating the garden as part of their curriculum before the project was even complete, using the process of preparing the garden’s soil as part of a seventh grade biology lab on soil. The butterfly garden includes a certified monarch butterfly stopover site, which will allow teachers to teach about the butterfly’s life cycle, illustrate the food web, and explain the different ways animals have evolved to stay alive. The garden’s composting station uses waste from students’ lunches, providing lessons about soil enrichment and recycling. The garden is also a beautiful space for children to enjoy lunch, read, write in a journal, daydream and imagine.
“There is nothing like being in the garden with young children,” says Gowe. “It’s a place where they can move around, touch, smell and actively learn. Watching their eyes light up when they see a cucumber growing on a vine or a small watermelon hidden under the leaves of the plant makes it all worthwhile,” she adds.
Volunteers are responsible for maintaining the garden now that the key elements are in place, including watering, weeding, planting and playing an integral role in making the school garden a resource that teachers can easily incorporate in their curriculum. With a waiting list already started for plots in the community garden, Gowe is hopeful that they will soon be able to add additional plots.
“Our plans for the future include relocating playground equipment to add more space for raised beds for residents and the school, adding attractive pavers to the center and a shade structure thereby creating an outdoor classroom where students will have instructional time with their teachers and gardener volunteers,” says Gowe. “We also envision a raised bed where we would grow vegetables to donate to a shelter in downtown Charleston.”
The volunteer gardeners plan to raise money to make the plans for the future of the garden become a reality. We thank them for their hard work in creating such a wonderful new amenity and educational tool for our island residents and students! To learn more about what’s happening, check out the Daniel Island School Garden Facebook page here.