The project is the latest of Garden Club’s long-time collaboration with Lakewood High Horticulture Program. Long a supporter of the Horticulture program at Lakewood High School, the Lakewood Garden Club has ramped up that support with funding for a new and innovative project that will provide an outdoor learning lab for the program.
The Garden Club contributed $4,000 toward the project and raised almost all of the remainder of the nearly $20,000 needed for the project from local community sources, educational and corporate grants, service organizations, and many individual friends of Lakewood City Schools. Construction on the 3,664-square-foot Horticulture Outdoor Learning Lab, which will be located at the visitors’ entrance of Lakewood High School, 14100 Franklin Blvd., began on Nov. 22 and is nearly complete.
The finished project will add a significant dimension to the current horticulture program by linking indoor classroom and greenhouse knowledge with the external natural environment. Learning to manage the environmental challenges of weather, wildlife, insects, and humans will enhance the student’s academic knowledge and broaden potential career opportunities. It will also become a landscape centerpiece for the high school.
“We are grateful for the Lakewood Garden Club’s support and thank the members for its investment in our students,” said Superintendent Jeffrey W. Patterson. “The partnership is one we hope to recreate with other organizations in our community as we move forward in these challenging economic times.”
Following the legacy of former Lakewood Garden Club Education Committee Chairperson Mary Jo Potts, who initiated the club’s support of the Horticulture program 10 years ago, the club’s current Education Committee worked with Horticulture teacher Mark Rathge to design and plan the development of the outdoor learning lab.
“The partnership that has been formed with the Lakewood Garden Club and LHS Horticulture has been incredible,” Rathge said. “I truly have been blessed as a teacher to have such wonderful support from this organization. It is this partnership that has enabled this outdoor lab to come to fruition.”
Garden Club Education Committee co-chairs Judy Riley and Debby Conley said in a statement: “This project will not only provide an enhanced educational opportunity for the students, but it will also spotlight another innovative program being offered at Lakewood High School. We look forward to Mark's cultivation of the outdoor learning lab as it emerges into yet another excellent accomplishment for the horticulture program."
Rathge’s students will help in planning what and where to plant, as well as doing most of the planting and maintenance of the lab. Besides hands-on-learning what Rathge ultimately hopes to accomplish is a “sense of pride” in the project so that the students may take that appreciation of gardening and landscaping to help beautify the community – “to transfer what they have learned here and desire to do the same at their home now and any future home they might have,” Rathge said.
The design of the 3,664-square-foot outdoor learning lab includes the construction of four raised plantings boxes, 10-feet by 5-feet by 2-feet high. The planting boxes are an essential element of the outdoor horticulture experience for several reasons: 1) The raised planters will provide handicap access since their height will allow wheelchair bound students the ability to easily reach the soil; 2) Raised beds warm up sooner than the ground and therefore can be planted earlier; 3) The boxes will be built along the perimeter of the classroom area as a boundary, preventing walkers from casually tramping on in-ground plantings; and 4) The raised beds will have a 12-inch cap allowing them to be used as benches while providing protection to plantings.
A 7½-foot-wide paved pathway has been designed to stretch from the sidewalk at the base of the classroom area, through its center, to the school’s entrance. Besides a pathway to the school, it would also allow for the ease of wheelbarrow movement and other gardening activities.
The planting areas will be used for growing perennials, shrubs, trees, annual beddings, and for herbs and vegetables that may be used by the school’s culinary arts program in its Ranger Café. While not in use by the horticulture program the outdoor classroom will be available to be used by other educators for creative learning experiences.