Pratt & Whitney recently presented the Wellington Garden Club with the company’s Green Power Grant of $5,000 to utilize in assisting Equestrian Trails Elementary School in its green school goals and assist Habitat for Humanity’s native plant landscaping.
“We didn’t apply — they found us,” said Twig Morris, president of the Wellington Garden Club.
The Wellington Preservation Coalition recommended the Wellington Garden Club to Pratt & Whitney as a group to assist Equestrian Trails with its Green School of Excellence goals, Morris said.
Pratt & Whitney then learned of some of the other community outreach projects the Wellington Garden Club does, including assisting Habitat for Humanity with native landscapes, and the company decided it wanted the grant shared.
With involvement in seven school-based junior garden clubs in Wellington, the Wellington Garden Club is accustomed to adjusting to the needs and abilities of its young pupils.
Mother and parent volunteer Silke Kiesewetter Corredor is thrilled with the growth of the gardens at Equestrian Trails.
“I started a garden, so I figured I could inspire the kids to eat real food by growing it,” she said. “That’s how this whole thing got started. Last year, it was quite a small effort. This year, with the help of the Wellington Garden Club and the Wellington Preservation Coalition, and the amazing support of Principal Michele Johnson, we put together a Green Team. It went from growing a little garden to really creating awareness on every level.”
The school recently staged a “Green Day,” with more than 200 students and parents helping to clean the school and prepare the gardens.
“Barbara Hadsell from the Wellington Garden Club was a tremendous input into making that a success,” Corredor said. “She kind of took us under her wing, and we’ve been starting these initiatives in every aspect of the school. We’re starting the Aftercare Garden Club now with the help of the grants; we’re starting a hallway project with native plants because of the grant… It was a big surprise. We are extremely grateful for the grant that they decided to include us in.”
Next up is creating a formal plan, which will include starting a gardening program with 100 aftercare students.
Other plans include planting native plants, growing seeds in the vegetable gardens, purchasing books to help integrate gardening into the curriculum, purchasing rain barrels and other exciting changes.
These new additions are completely feasible, according to Hadsell, a master gardener who is chairing the program for the Wellington Garden Club. Though plants, growing towers and garden building can become expensive, the most expensive elements have already been set up and paid for through various other grants, she said.
Students will be growing small vegetables in 2-gallon and 3-gallon grow bags, such as lettuce, tomatoes and corn. The grow bags are flat-bottomed with holes to allow drainage and let plants grow with minimal weeds. Strawberries will be planted in vertical growing towers, and the garden beds will grow various different plants, including fruits, vegetables and herbs.
The only costs, Hadsell said, will be to purchase landscape cloth, compost, grow bags and seeds, and to fix the water delivery system.
The green school requirements aren’t just growing a garden and keeping the school clean, they also include integrating the learning into the classroom and providing a positive impact on the environment.
Many members of the school faculty, as well as volunteers and Wellington Garden Club members, will be attending a conference on Oct. 20 to learn more about how to make Equestrian Trails an even greener place for learning.
The students have truly taken to the gardening and green school initiatives, Assistant Principal Antonietta D’Aqui said.
“The kids love it,” she said, explaining that the students enjoy getting their hands dirty and really like seeing the results of their hard work.
D’Aqui, like the others, was not expecting the grant. “We were surprised when presented with the check. Our team at that time brainstormed some ideas, and we’ll definitely be coming up with some ways on how to improve and enhance the gardens that we have currently,” she said.
The Wellington Garden Club has been an invaluable asset, she said, with members bringing their passion and expertise to the school.
“They not only come to our meetings and attend, but their input and their insight on how we can improve the different areas in our schools, aligning it with the student interest and getting our staff on board, they have just been amazing to have on board,” D’Aqui said.
In the classrooms, teachers integrate the environmental aspects with the current curriculum, sharing, discussing and expanding on the discoveries of others as they go along.
If you would like to donate plants and other gardening supplies to Equestrian Trails, call (561) 904-9600.
To learn more about the Wellington Garden Club, visit www.wellingtongardenclub.org.
ABOVE: Wellington Garden Club President Twig Morris (left) with Equestrian Trails Elementary School Assistant Principal Antonietta D’Aqui.