Learning in the dirt

Published 3:00 am Saturday, June 9, 2012

Raynier Kloberdanz, left, works on planting a pepper plant with the help of RSVP Volunteer gardener, Bill Walker.

Trowels and pepper plants were the tools of choice this week as students with the Project Made group from W.S. Neal Elementary School worked in the community garden in East Brewton.
Allison Nalty, director of the summer program for the school, said the students take pride in what they do in the garden.
“We worked in the garden last year and the children loved it,” Nalty said. “They love coming out here and digging in the dirt. They get real pleasure in picking tomatoes they’ve helped work with and seen grow.”
The community garden at Fort Crawford Park is flourishing thanks to the care of volunteers with the Escambia County Retired Senior Volunteer Program.
Amy Cooley, director for RSVP, said the plantings this summer have been made possible through a lot of work and funding from grants.
“We received a $5,000 grant to help with the work here at the community garden,” Cooley said. “With that grant we will be able to work on creating a handicap approach to the garden as well as a sidewalk that will lead to our greenhouse. We got a grant for the greenhouse and hope to get that up soon.”
Cooley said the grant funding will also help with some drainage issues at the garden spot as well as help create a three-section compost site.
“The pepper plants the students planted were donated by the Escambia County Extension Service,” Cooley said. “We have been fortunate to have those kinds of donations to help with the garden.”
Bill Walker, an RSVP volunteer in the garden, was on hand to help teach the students about gardening and harvesting.
“Bill is excellent with the children,” Cooley said. “He is patient and is very knowledgeable about gardening. He’s a retired landscaper and he gardens himself. He teaches the proper way to plant and how important watering is for the garden. A lot of the children who come here aren’t typically exposed to gardening and he’s great at teaching them how to do it.”
Nalty said the summer for the students will focus on other learning opportunities including the gardening sessions.
“The students love coming to Fort Crawford Park,” Nalty said. “We have several stations of things that we do while we are here. We have a station that takes the students on a walk through the nature trail where we collect things and learn about the different trees and plants on the trail. We also take the children down to the creek bed and they explore the different kinds of rocks found there. They even collect some of the rocks that we use for art projects.”
Dewayne Carroll, an organizer for the re-building of Fort Crawford Park, said volunteers are always needed.
“We have a lot of work that we want to accomplish here,” Carroll said. “With the building of the greenhouse, working on sidewalks and the handicap approach takes some work. We can always use volunteers to help with the work here including the garden.”
Carroll said the work being done to further enhance the community garden spot will continue in the coming weeks.
“We are already doing work to sidewalks and to make the pavillion more accessible for handicapped individuals,” Carroll said. “We are working on improvements to the pavillion which will serve as an outdoor classroom for groups like Project Made. This is a work in progress.”
Improvements are also being made to landscaping surrounding the garden area as well as throughout the park, Carroll said.
Anyone interested in working in the garden or other areas of Fort Crawford Park can contact Carroll or Cooley at the Escambia County RSVP office for more details.