Children patted soil around vibrant flowers while teens, teachers and others shoveled alongside them in Rama Road Elementary’s courtyard Saturday morning in Charlotte.
They were creating the Holly Fischer Memorial Learning Garden. It is a tribute to the 39-year-old Charlotte woman who was killed in a car accident this spring after her SUV crashed into a steep ravine off N.C. 16 near Wilkes County. She had been driving home to Charlotte after visiting her parents in Tennessee, and was missing for a week before authorities found the car.
Fischer worked for Discovery Education, a subsidiary of Discovery Communications (which owns the Discovery Channel.) Discovery Education offers digital media content to schools. About five and a half years ago, she had a vision to create a partnership with Discovery and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
That plan has come to fruition this school year as Rama Road Elementary has incorporated hands-on learning at the school in partnership with Discovery. And the memorial garden is a prime example.
Rama Road principal Patti Denny attended a Discovery Education principal’s convention in June, and loved the “sensory garden” – filled with plants that could be touched, smelled or seen – in front of the Discovery building. After Denny talked with local Discovery Education administrators, they created a plan for the memorial garden.
City Blossoms, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that creates kid-friendly green spaces, designed it.
Denny said students will visit the garden at least once a week for upkeep and scientific observation. There are also plans to create electronic QR codes (to be scanned by iPads) for the various plants that students will write descriptions for. They’ll learn how to compost, too.
Rama Road fifth-grader J.T. Long helped carry and spread soil Saturday morning. He said he’s most interested in the section that attracts wildlife, and noted one plant is already attracting caterpillars.
He was happy to help and hopes he can continue with the work, perhaps by watering plants throughout the year. “I think it’ll be really cool to see it grow.”
There are several small gardens within the courtyard. Some will be sensory gardens, which Denny said she’s excited about for her students with disabilities. Another is full of flowers and plants that attract insects and wildlife, one for annuals and another in which students will study pollination.
“It’s going to be awesome,” said, Dana Long, J.T’s mother and a teacher at the school. “A lot of the kids (who attend Rama Road) live in apartments, so they don’t have this opportunity.”
The newly-built garden also features Fischer’s two favorite flowers: pink hydrangeas and red roses. Her parents, who live in Knoxville, Tenn., brought clippings of red knockout roses from home that Fischer had enjoyed tending to the new garden Saturday.
“Holly was the most vibrant, colorful, tenacious, strong, beautiful woman you’d have ever met,” said Katie Bradigan, a colleague of Fischer’s at Discovery Education. “She’d see this garden and see so much of herself in this, and I think she’d really appreciate everyone being here.”
The volunteers were invited to write memories, thoughts and prayers about Fischer on biodegradable paper that contained a pouch of seeds to be planted as well.
“For years to come, she’ll continue to have an impact on our children,” Denny said of Fischer. “It gives me goosebumps every time I think about it.”
Ruebens: 704-358-5294; Twitter: @lruebens
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