New Palestine Intermediate School students shovel, tote 8 tons of gravel to inside room

NEW PALESTINE — They brought the outside inside, and in the process, fifth-grade students at New Palestine Intermediate School learned about teamwork, planning and responsibility, as well as how to grow and care for a real garden.

Members of the school’s Garden Club and Innovation Class held their final meeting of the year just before school let out to show off this year’s project.

Under the supervision and guidance of fifth-grade teacher Darcy Rund, the students, who are part of an after-school group, designed and built a real garden in the school library.

“It really brings nature inside and a scene of freshness,” said fifth-grader Abby Journay.

With the help of community donations, the students painstakingly shoveled and toted in eight tons of gravel and dumped the material in the northeast corner of the school’s library. After spreading out the rocks, the students created separate Chinese- and Mexican-themed gardens, complete with a bridge, stone pathways, two aeroponic tower gardens and stumps for seating.

“A lot of us didn’t even know how to plant at first,” said fifth-grader Gabe Wolfla-Klare. “We also learned about being a team because at first, we were kind of confused.”

New Palestine High School students made a picnic table and the bridge for the project, but Rund’s goal was for the fifth-graders to do most of the work, and they did, she said.

Rund came up with an idea of creating a special place for students to sit, relax, socialize, work and read. She then asked her students if they wanted to make that kind of special space inside their own school, and they jumped at the chance.

“It was just a dream how it all came about,” Rund said.

She tasked the students to come up with the different ideas on how to design the library garden. While they created several of their ideas, they still have many projects to add in the coming years. The students want to make a butterfly area; add a water feature; and add sound effects of birds and insects, things people would hear in a real outdoor garden.

Some 45 fifth-graders were part of this year’s Garden Club, including Hayden Ramsey, who said he joined the group because he liked to build things. He got the chance to do that through the landscaping work.

“I thought it was going to be an outdoor garden at first,” Hayden said. “But, when they said it was going to be inside, I thought that was going to be really neat.”

On the east wall of the library is a Tree of Donations display, complete with golden leaves. They showcase the names of individuals and companies who helped make the project become a reality.

Jeff Frey, Frey Construction, donated all the gravel and cinder blocks for the projects. He was one of the many adults who stopped by to see the finished work. When Rund contacted him, wanting to know if he might have any materials to donate, he looked around and knew for certain he had plenty of items he could provide the students.

“I think they did a really good job on this,” Frey said. “I’m amazed how well it turned out.”

In addition to learning work skills like how to design a major project, the creation of the Indoor Garden Library provided students with opportunities to learn about science. They learned about testing water for ph levels and delved deeper into plants at the microscope section.

In the end, all the students in the school added a little part. The students in the Garden Club asked art students to make ceramic tiles and pots for the plants.

However, it was the students in the Garden Club who did all the research for the project, figuring out what might be able to grow inside the library and what type of architecture would look best.

“They turned it all into such a pretty space,” Rund said.

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