Lessons in the garden
The Daniel Island School and Community Garden (DISCG) has grown like a weed over the past two years! What started out as a temporary project for the Daniel Island Community Garden Club - answering a call to save an abandoned school garden – quickly turned into a joint program, comprised of a thriving community and school garden on the Daniel Island School grounds.
The DISCG is a walled garden, tucked into one of the alcoves behind the school. There is a gate leading into what has become a lush, community and educational green space with 13 raised beds for residents to lease on a yearly basis and over 20 educational raised beds for the school to peruse in a plethora of ways. It’s a colorful oasis where students witness vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit growing in all stages, during all seasons. The newly designed garden maintains the original circular walkway, now the centerpiece of the garden with a strong, symbolic reference to the cycle of the natural world and the seasons. The green area within the walkway is further defined by sixteen 4 x 4 raised beds. There are sensory beds with aromatic herbs, brightly colored flowers, soft lambs ear and spikey succulents, a perfectly orchestrated butterfly garden, planted with passion vine and gaillardia, Italian parsley, milk weed and dill to meet the needs of butterflies through their miraculous metamorphosis from egg to larva or caterpillar to chrysalis and finally mature butterfly. This Lepidoptera (butterfly) sanctuary is on the national registry of Monarch Butterfly way stations. In 2016 – 2017 a new 6’ x 12’ shed and two composters were purchased for the garden with a grant from the Daniel Island Community Fund and two rain barrels were donated to the garden by the Clemson Extension.
The outdoor classroom at the center of the circle is furnished with four picnic tables, painted a soft sage color to blend with the clover underfoot and not compete with the vibrant ever-changing colors of the garden. The school children, teachers and gardeners gather in the outdoor classroom to participate in lessons, workshops, demonstrations, jazz concerts and even poetry readings and writing collectives.
The Daniel Island School and Community Garden coordinators and volunteers have worked with teachers to develop educational programs since the inception of the newly purposed garden in 2015. The programs are designed to complement, enhance and bring to life academic subjects taught in elementary and middle school. From August to May the garden volunteers involve the school children in dynamic, interactive, outdoor lessons on subjects such as the lifecycle of the butterfly, an award winning, ongoing compost project, soil science, recycling experiments and crop rotation. Yvonne Michel, Daniel Island resident, retired MUSC professor and garden volunteer shares her love of science and nature with the children. Recently, Yvonne conducted a children’s seminar entitled “How Do Bananas Grow?” for first and second graders. Professor Yvonne’s lessons come to life in the living laboratory that is the garden. Her joy and enthusiasm for the science of the garden is transmitted to the children who are thrilled and filled with excitement as they learn to unravel the mysteries of the natural world around them! What better place to have a lesson about the extraordinary life of a banana than at the base of a banana tree?
Professionals from the Charleston arts and science community conduct workshops for the children in the garden. Last April, Dave Manger, an entomologist based in Charleston and owner of the native plants nursery Roots and Shoots, inspired third graders with a “Pollinators are Our Friends” workshop. In May, Marcus Amaker, Charleston’s first poet laureate, conducted a poetry jam with seventh graders. Mr. Amaker worked with the young teens and prompted a spontaneous, genuine, and very impressive collective poem.
The garden is now an integral part of the school community and a living resource for Daniel Island School. Teachers and students may enjoy a picnic lunch, have a writing lesson or even a spontaneous caterpillar hunt in the garden. During the different seasons of the year, hummingbirds, bluebirds, caterpillars, chrysalises, native and cultivated plants inspire and enchant us all in the garden. The garden gives back that joy to our children who are instinctively curious about the wonders of the natural world. Most importantly, the children will often see a community gardener, who now is also a part of the students’ educational life, working quietly, tending her garden or weeding one of the school garden beds. It is heartwarming to see this garden flourish and to witness the community garden members and the DIS children interact; delighted and inspired, each drawn in by the magical lessons in the garden.
The DISCG wishes to send a shout-out to Vineyard Vines. The DISCG was the lucky beneficiary of a 10 and 10 fundraising event at the Charleston Vineyard Vines, receiving 10 percent of all sales on a busy summer afternoon on King Street!
All Daniel Island residents are welcome to participate in the garden fun. Check out our Facebook page for more information: facebook.com/danielislandschoolgarden/ or send an email to Jacqueline.email@example.com.
Jacqueline Gowe is the Daniel Island School and Community Garden Coordinator.