12/11/10 — Dillard Academy competing for garden grant

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Dillard Academy competing for garden grant

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 11, 2010 11:20 PM

A garden project started at Dillard Academy three years ago is vying for an $5,000 online grant to keep it going.

"Growing Seeds of Happiness" is in the running for funding from Rain Bird Corp., a manufacturer and provider of irrigation products. The "Intelligent Use of Water Awards" features four awards for $1,500 projects, three $5,000 projects and three $10,000 projects.

The online voting period runs until March 1, 2011, with winners to be announced March 22.

The program was announced a week ago and quickly gained momentum, said Danielle Baptiste, auxiliary services coordinator at the charter school.

"We have the students doing it and the parents were given the website address," iuow awards.com, she said. "Each person can get on one time a day, but can vote every day."

There are numerous other projects up for consideration, including other school gardens, but Dillard's has the greatest educational component, Ms. Baptiste said.

"Students will garden, but ours is the only one that I saw that actually integrated math and science, not just gardens for gardens' sake but also will improve academics," she said.

It's a project that has been well-received at the school since it was introduced in 2007, she said, but needs funding to continue.

"We didn't receive renewal of the federal grant we had," Ms. Baptiste said.

One benefit of the winter weather is that the garden is in a holding pattern, she said. Also fortuitous has been support from the community.

"The city has been wonderful," she said. "They have provided all of our compost in the past year. And we just received borders for raised beds from the library.

"But when it comes time to plant, we're going to actually need some more funds for the seeds and more gloves for the kids."

Students recently did a harvest in time for Thanksgiving, giving greens to several families for the holiday, she said.

The school was given another boost when HBO visited the area recently to film part of a documentary on childhood obesity.

"They came to our school garden and they were very impressed," Ms. Baptiste said. "They ended up talking to several of our kids about the program."

Since its inception, the garden has drawn an array of supporters -- from ages 3 to 85, Ms. Baptiste said.

"We have kindergartners very active in the garden through fourth-graders in the garden program and after-school program, several alumni high school kids keep coming back, and Foster Grandparents help the students learn what to do in the garden," she said.

The project is run in conjunction with the CASTLES K-6th grade 21st Century Community Learning Center Program. In addition to adapting curriculum to the hands-on gardening activities, it provides social interaction through mentoring and intergenerational efforts that also translate into activities between parents and children, Ms. Baptiste said.

Of course, school officials will continue to apply for various grants that may be available. In the meantime, they are setting their sights on the online contest that could supplement their efforts.

Ms. Baptiste admitted they have a few ideas for the $5,000 should they win.

"We're definitely hoping to put in an irrigation system so that we can keep the garden watered," she said. "Right now we just pull a hose across the parking lot. We have lost many a hose that way.

"I would like to buy some more seeds and tools for the children so that they can garden as safely as possible. We also want to incorporate some fruit trees and of course, aesthetically, we're going to get some mulch and make it really pretty."

A few benches and other additions would also be nice, she added, but mostly it all comes back to funding the learning opportunities for students,

"Always, since we have the educational components, any of the instructional supplies that the kids would need, is how we would choose to spend the money," she said.