When Jen Welch took Girl Scout Troop 778 to clean up a portion of the Severna Park Elementary School courtyard for Earth Day in 2018, a seed was planted.
Why not beautify the entire area and transform it into an outdoor educational space to supplement classroom learning?
The space was barely used because it was overrun with grasses. “My first year here, the weeds were as high as the black part of the roof,” said Principal Lori Barnes. “The weeds grow so fast, we can’t keep up.”
Barnes connected with The Wild Child LLC, which helped create an outdoor nature space unveiled at Benfield Elementary in fall 2018. Together, Barnes, The Wild Child LLC and the SPES PTA outlined a three-phase blueprint for a space at SPES.
Phase I and Phase II will include native gardens, an edible garden, potting benches and an outdoor classroom. If funded, Phase III would add a walking path, native garden, learning and play stations, and a duck village so the ducks who now habitat the site will not be displaced.
“The full plan is to have stepping stones and learning stations that connect to the curriculum,” Barnes said. “The teachers can come out here and talk about erosion or solar power.”
Dubbed Boone’s Backyard — in honor of the school’s beloved mascot, a bobcat named Boone — the space started to come alive on May 21. Students filled a butterfly and pollinator garden with native plants: black-eyed Susans, goldenrod, milkweed, mistflower and New England aster.
They also installed a milkweed patch. “Milkweed is the only plant in the whole world that supports the life cycle of monarch butterflies,” said Julie Dieguez of The Wild Child LLC.
The experience was fun for second-grader Mason Hauswirth. “I like it because we’re sharing stories and I like being outside,” he said. “It’s probably going to look beautiful.”
Beautiful was the same buzz word used by second-grader Betsy Weems. “It’s fun because we get to plant stuff and we learn what kind of bugs are in the garden,” she noted.
Severna Park Elementary wants to raise $16,000 to complete Boone’s Backyard. The school secured $1,000 through a grant offered by Unity Gardens, a nonprofit that supports green projects undertaken by neighborhoods, schools, churches and scout troops. Barnes said SPES hopes to fund the rest of the project with other grants, school fundraisers, and community support.
Checks can be made out to Severna Park Elementary School and mailed to the school’s financial secretary, Dawn Boring, at 6 Riggs Avenue, Severna Park, MD 21146.
“I am committed to making sure Boone’s Backyard becomes a space that promotes engaging instruction and inquiry,” Barnes said.