The Wasteland Reclamation Project

Each month, we feature one of our teachers on the blog and ask them to write a bit about their classroom experience with LPS. This month, we learn about a multi-disciplinary project at 6th grade teacher Kevin Ohama’s school.

Transforming a “wasteland” into a school garden has taken over Mr. Ohama’s class this year. Students reclaimed a neglected space and made it usable.

Empty plot

Marion Mix Elementary School opened three years ago with the hope that we would have a functioning school garden. The space was set aside for people to make it happen. Unfortunately, the space sat empty and neglected for the entire three years. Students called it the “Wasteland.” It was full of weeds and garbage. It was a blight on the campus.

Seeing an opportunity to improve the school, several students entered the garden in late August and pulled weeds and removed trash. Other students got involved and turned the idea into a project. They wanted to make the Wasteland into a real garden.

students getting adviceThe first thing the students did was to complete a needs assessment. This gave the project some focus. Then they created a mission which was to create a garden that would feature native plants to attract birds and food production to promote better nutrition and inspire home gardeners. We had focus, energy, and ideas. The one thing that kept coming up: We needed money!

Their teacher, Mr. Ohama, took their ideas and wrote a grant proposal to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Sleuth program. The proposal was funded for $1,750 and the Wasteland Reclamation Project was taking flight.

Another thing the students identified as a need: expertise in building school gardens. We invited a couple gardening experts to visit our site, assess our soil, and give us some advice on constructing the garden.

Found a wormIn January, Richard Marks and Farmer Leo visited. They gave great advice and said that worms in the soil mean that the soil is pretty healthy. We dug up soil and looked for worms. Sandra found the first worm in a clump of soil.

things growingRichard Marks and Farmer Leo suggested planting cover crops to help the soil. We planted a mixture of hairy vetch, purple vetch, common vetch, monida oats, peas, and bell beans in a 3’x5’ test section. After a week or so, things that were planted on purpose started growing in the garden.

The transformation from the wasteland is not yet complete. On February 23rd, community volunteers are coming to construct planter boxes. The following week will see soil in the boxes and plants in the soil. Our grand opening/open house is set for March 7th, which is Luther Burbank’s birthday.


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