"Gardening is such an experiential learning process, I think it's a huge advantage to figure things out and learn right along with the students - they kids see you problem solving and that's really meaningful. Just jump in." - Joy Schelble
At the Goodman Youth Farm, we are lucky enough to have a three-basin sink for washing dishes in our outdoor cooking area. The sink basins are perfect, but the legs...leave something to be desired. Last spring, one of the legs just fell right off. In summer, we lost a second leg, and had to prop our sink up against the edge of our garden shed. I asked the facilities crew about welding, but no luck. Shortly thereafter, the third leg fell off. It was time for some serious problem solving.
Since welding was out, wooden legs were next on my list of potential solutions. My carpentry skills were, at the time, sub-par. (Read: I really had no clue what I was doing.) But I had an idea. I sketched out a plan that would allow our legless sink to nest into a wooden frame, and went promptly to The Home Depot.
"I'm trying to build...this," I said, pointing to my pencil sketch and picture of the sad looking sink on my phone. I returned with a collection of 2x4's and a little more confidence. The next day, I worked with our visiting high schoolers to put together the frame. There was a fair amount of head-scratching, but in the end, our sink stood tall and sturdy, and even had its own wheels. The students felt proud of their handiwork. I was excited to tackle more garden problems.
Since then, I have helped students build shelving units, miniature hoop houses, work benches, a chicken tractor, and an aquaponics systems. I learn more each time, right along with the students.
"Build your own" can help school gardens improve their outdoor learning spaces, save money, and provide an additional pathway for hands-on learning. It is also a great way to get new students involved in the garden, or engage returning students in a new way. I have heard many inspiring stories from schools - including the story in this newsletter - about how they have connected with the tech ed or woodworking department in their school system to complete garden building projects that are creative, functional, and meaningful to students.
We have included plans for a number of garden building projects in this newsletter for students, teachers, and garden leaders who are ready to jump right in. We encourage everyone to try their hand at a hammer, but also to use building projects to continue to connect the garden throughout the school and community. Whether you reach out to a group of students, a neighboring school, a parent volunteer, a local non-profit, or another community resource, whoever is involved will hold a special place for your school garden in their heart every time they walk by and remember, "I built that."