TEGA CAY --
George Atkinson, Anthony De La Vera and Conner OHara gather around a bush in Gold Hill Elementary Schools new garden. The boys cant take their eyes off of a yellow and black writing spider thats made a brilliant zigzag web.
When theyre not eyeing the spider, the boys are running through the garden, pointing out the broccoli that one class planted and shouting when they discover small watermelons coming up in another area.
OHara gives a detailed explanation of the cotton plants growing on the side of the garden, planted by a class learning South Carolina history. He points out the butterfly garden and flowers.
They smell good and look pretty, he said.
The garden was created last spring by the Healthy Hornets group, a group of parents dedicated to promoting good health throughout the school. The garden was funded by a grant secured by Tammie Welch, the districts dietician.
We wanted to be hands on and what better way to get the kids involved in the growing process than to get them in the garden with seeds and dirt, said Healthy Hornets volunteer Kara Griffin.
The garden produced its first vegetables last spring. Teachers brought the vegetables, including broccoli and sweet peas, into the classrooms for the students to taste. In recent months, the garden has been completed with help from area businesses, including McHales, Earth and Woods Landscaping and Carolina Fresh Farms. The businesses helped level the ground around the garden, where water had begun to pool after rains. They laid sod and spread mulch.
A quilt garden created by a former artist-in-residence was a good basis for the new garden, Assistant Principal Chris Gardner said.
The quilt garden, a garden that had artistic elements meant to symbolize pieces of local history, was growing over with weeds. When the Healthy Hornets group decided to create a garden, Gardner suggested that they rehab the quilt garden and give it new life.
Elements of the quilt garden remain, including a stone walkway meant to symbolize the Catawba River and a marker that tells about local history.
Sheila Kauffman also helped plant the garden and prepare it for use by teachers and student. Her son, a student at the elementary school, has enjoyed seeing the process of growing vegetables and fruits, from the seeds to the plant. It helps kids who are visual learners, Kauffman said.
Its not something he had seen before. He loved that he had a part in that, she said.
In addition to the vegetable and fruit garden, there is also a butterfly garden and spots for teachers to grow things that can be used in their classroom curriculum.
It can be tied to so many subjects and with the kids out here working on it they understand team work and it gives them a vested interest in the school, said Gardner. It gives them something applicable from their textbooks.
After a few minutes the boys attention was drawn away from the spider and back to the rest of the garden. They talked about seeing butterflies and other wildlife, and they talked about which crops theyd like to plant next.
Theres always something to see in the garden and thats the way its supposed to be, Griffin said.