FAIRHOPE — Kimberly Quigley, a third-grade teacher at Fairhope Elementary School, believes outdoor gardening projects foster a child’s enthusiasm toward learning about native species and habitats, and she hopes to demonstrate this philosophy …
FAIRHOPE — Kimberly Quigley, a third-grade teacher at Fairhope Elementary School, believes outdoor gardening projects foster a child’s enthusiasm toward learning about native species and habitats, and she hopes to demonstrate this philosophy through a gardening project she has undertaken at the school.
“Getting children outdoors to learn is the first step in creating a new generation of stewards and caretakers of our natural resources,” said Quigley.
The teacher said she proposed the idea for the project after discovering what appeared to be the remains of a garden. Recognizing its potential, she asked administrators about the space. Her inquiries revealed that the area had indeed once been a garden, but the teachers responsible for it had since retired or moved away.
After securing permission to reclaim the garden, Oliver had students begin clearing mounds of leaves and sticks, a daunting task. Some of the students brought in their own rakes and gloves, and Wilson McDuff, a third-grade teacher, donated the use of his truck. The group hauled away five loads of debris, said Quigley.
Once the initial cleaning was completed, the mini-habitat was enhanced through the addition of bird feeders, birdbaths, water puddles, new plants and a hand-painted sign that reveals who the garden is named for.
The children now spend time each day working in the garden. Quigley uses the work time to educate them on the types of visitors frequenting the garden, and she said students are delighted each time they spot a bluebird, robin, dove, lizard, rabbit, toad or butterfly, and they vie for the opportunity to handle caterpillars that wander in.
In May, students will create a stepping stone path from stones they decorated with glass beads, hand prints and found natural objects.
Future plans include creating a dry stream bed, a raised bed herb garden, ABC and Rainbow gardens, new birdhouses, a lady bughouse, a small bridge, seating for students, a rain barrel, new plants and a garden arch. These improvements will be implemented as time and funding permits, said Quigley.
Students said they look forward to watching the garden grow, and they say they are amazed at the transformation that has taken place.
“You should have seen it last year,” said 9-year-old Austin Gaines.”It was really ugly. It was filled with trash, he said; water bottles, spoons and other litter.
“It was a wreck,” he said. “There were no birds or butterflies.”
The L. Jones Butterfly Garden and Bird Habitat was named after Linda Jones, a retired teacher. Jones, who also taught third grade, retired early last year after she was diagnosed with cancer, Quigley said. Because she had supported the garden project during her time at the school, Quigley and members of the parent-teacher committee felt it would be appropriate to name the garden after the much-loved educator. In addition to a $300 grant from Legacy Partners in Environmental Education, a $500 grant was awarded by the PTC in Jones’ name.
Quigley said Jones was highly respected as an educator and loved as a friend by many.
“I did not know Ms. Jones personally, but I am inspired by her and just amazed by all the wonderful things I have heard about her,” said Quigley. “There is no doubt that she is an outstanding person and loved very much by the Fairhope community. She is well-known for her creative spirit and generous heart.”
“My hope is that this project will create a sense of ownership and pride for the children,” said Quigley. “I want our garden to be a place of beauty and learning at Fairhope Elementary. It is important to get kids outside; to get them excited about gardening and observing nature while they are young, and it is my hope that an outdoor education will instill a love of nature that will last a lifetime.”
Quigley said she is still in need of items to fill the garden, and she is seeking donations from the community. Garden decor, a fountain, butterfly houses, gravel and a more flowers, she said, would be appreciated.
Dedication of the garden will be formalized at the Jones retirement party being held on April 26 at the First United Methodist Church of Fairhope.
An article about Linda Jones will be published in the April 11 Fairhope Courier.