While most gardens were being “put to bed,” the Edible Schoolyard at Geneva’s Western Avenue Elementary School (1500 S. Western Ave.) was actually growing – with the next phase of its installation. Crews from Great Impressions, a subsidiary of Sebert Landscaping, recently installed brick walkways in the garden. The bricks, all 3,000 of them, were donated by Paveloc. And Sebert donated almost half of the cost to install them.
“These donations from Sebert and Paveloc – along with all the others we’ve received so far – are amazing,” said Ronald Zeman, the school’s principal. “What this means is yet another step forward and more evidence that our Edible Schoolyard is happening, that it’s really cool and it will be beautiful. It’s another way for everyone to see more progress and get more excited about the garden.”
The bricks form a border around the garden and crisscross the center of the garden, outlining four planting quadrants. Where the paths meet in the center, they form a reading circle for teachers and students.
Making the Garden Accessible
“Having these pavers installed is phenomenal,” said Jen Kelley a school parent who is co-founder of the Get up and Grow committee, which was the impetus for the garden and continues to work toward its completion. “They help define the edges and make the garden more accessible for everyone, especially kids with disabilities.
“Also, the new reading circle is a nice, defined area for teachers to gather with the kids and do lessons right there. Instead of taking a field trip, they can have a field trip right at the school.”
Those involved in helping to make the Edible Schoolyard a reality see not only immediate benefits of the garden but long-term ones as well. “Getting kids involved in planning the garden and actually doing the growing is a way to spark an interest in them,” said Great Impressions’ Kevin Moravick, a Geneva resident who headed the project. “These kids will go on and have their own gardens and understand that you don’t have to go out and buy your food. You can grow and make your own.”
Get up and Grow
The Get up and Grow committee seeks to create and sustain an organic garden and landscape that enhances existing curriculum through hands-on learning, while reinforcing family and community connections. “The garden benefits the students and teachers without being an additional cost,” says Ms. Kelley. “The families and school, through fund raising, have contributed the funds to make it happen. All the donations we have received have been critical, too.”
The committee began envisioning the Edible Schoolyard in fall 2010. With the help of a landscape plan donated by landscape architect and Geneva resident Jay Womack, of WRD Environmental, students were able to plant their first crop of vegetables in one of the quadrants in spring 2011. The school received a $4,000 Fit Kids grant from Kane County and last fall used the first of the moneys to plant 15 fruit trees and a variety of berry bushes.
This spring, students in each grade level planted pumpkins, gourds, corn, beans, and squash. They sold the pumpkins and gourds at the school’s 2nd annual pumpkin festival in October to help raise funds for the garden, though some of the gourds were saved for future art projects.
Sebert Landscaping (www.sebert.com) is an award-winning full-service commercial landscape contractor that has managed corporate properties throughout the Chicago area for more than 25 years.Sebert uses lean management strategies to beautify clients’ properties while making them greener and potentially reducing their property-management costs. Based in Bartlett, IL, in a newly completed eco-friendly headquarters that is on track to be certified by the US Green Building Council, Sebert has branch offices in Elk Grove Village, Romeoville and Marengo. Great Impressions, Sebert’s design arm, is based in Naperville. Sebert also owns and operates Grace Nursery, a 125-acre tree and shrub nursery in Marengo.