If you ask students of the Back Creek Christian Academy the old nursery rhyme question of "how does your garden grow?" be prepared for a long, detailed answer.
A large portion of the 250-plus students in the transitional kindergarten through eighth-grade academy are heavily involved in the planning, planting and all other phases of a community garden being developed at the school, located alongside the Back Creek Presbyterian Church in the University City area.
According to Erica Hawley, middle school principal, the garden was envisioned about a year ago as teachers revised the science curriculum with the intent of getting the students outside and to develop a project that would promote more direct real-world connections to learning goals.
The students were enthusiastic about implementation of the idea.
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"The kids drew up the initial plans," said Hawley. "And with last year's eighth-grade class the idea really took shape."
Planning has involved study of the horticultural arts and a series of meetings with church members, UNC Charlotte horticulturists, the Baucom's nursery and others to discuss features and a timeline for the garden.
Teachers undertook training and visited nearby gardens and greenhouses to garner ideas and to better understand their project.
The school's Horticultural Club members, discussing the project at the end of a recent school day, were enthusiastic and eager to lay a carpet covering in the freshly dug hole for the pond, which will be the first major phase of the garden.
Next will come a butterfly garden, featuring plants that will help lure a variety of the insects for further study. The area is now taking shape in an area located beside the classrooms of the school near the intersection of University City Avenue and Back Creek Church Road.
The sixth-grade students, who hope to see completion of the vision by their graduation from eighth grade, have been busy prepping the area around the garden while planting and tending flowers.
In previous years, science projects included raising butterflies from larvae and frogs from tadpoles, so the group is ready to move to the bigger and more natural setting of the garden.
Eventually, each grade of the school will have its own section of the garden.
"From the beginning, we've made an effort to integrate the garden throughout the curriculum," said Head of School Janet Ballard, "and at the same time to involve all the community, not just the kids."
The students have conducted a plant sale, which raised more than $500, and reached out to parents and grandparents of the Academy student body, earmarking a percentage of the school's "heritage fund" for the garden finances.
A groundbreaking was held in conjunction with Earth Day on April 21.
The teachers hope the garden will someday include an outdoor classroom, benches and other amenities to make the site appealing for families and others in the community.