Three years ago, sixth-graders at Cassell Elementary School planted a native garden outside the front entrance to the school at 11314 S. Spaulding Ave.
When that garden was damaged this year as a result of school construction, current students made sure a new one was planted in a new location, beautifying the campus once again.
Members of the school’s garden club installed the garden on Oct. 3, working with teacher Elaine Cloney, who also oversaw the previous garden, and she’s proud of the tradition that project started.
“We continued a garden club every year just to take care of that one,” Cloney said. “When that got knocked down, we said we need another one. [Principal Eileen Scanlan] wanted it over here next to the playground.”
The new garden, located on the north end of the campus, contains about 150 plants, Cloney said, including milkweed, black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower and harebell. Some of the milkweed and black-eyed Susan were saved from the previous garden, and students re-installed logs that were part of an outdoor classroom near the previous garden.
A redbud tree is planted in the middle of the garden, with a pathway constructed around and between several sections of plants. Cloney hopes the garden attracts butterflies, just like the previous installment.
About 20 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders built the garden, and students were covered in dirt after a long day’s work. However, they said they enjoyed the teamwork that went into the project.
One student called the effort “bodacious.”
They spread mulch throughout the garden and used what they said started as a mulch pile as tall as them.
“They worked like a team,” Cloney said. “I was so impressed.”
Parents assisted with the installation, and Brendan Cloney, Cloney’s son, who is a landscape architect, designed the garden.
The club meets every other Friday at 7 a.m.
Fortunately, the plants are mostly self-sufficient, so future members won’t be overwhelmed with taking care of them.
“We’ll come out and weed,” Cloney said. “This year, we have to water it, but once the native plants become acclimated, besides weeding, you don’t have to take care of them anymore.”
The previous garden was part of Cassell’s Earth Force project, a program of the Field Museum of Natural History that encourages students to lessen their carbon footprint.
Students also began raising chickens on campus and built a chicken coop two years ago as another Earth Force effort.
Cloney promised a pizza party for club members if they built the new garden, where they hope to add seating soon.
Plenty of future projects are on the docket, Cloney said.
“We have lots of planning to do this winter.”