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Millbridge Elementary to establish model garden

By Sarah Nagem
snagem@salisburypost.com
Millbridge Elementary has big plans.
School leaders, with the help of some people who know about this sort of thing, want to create a garden that will serve as a classroom tool to enhance science lessons.
The idea is for kids to not only read about plants and crops from textbooks, but to actually see them grow. Some people even hope the garden will become a model for other local schools to follow.
“I wish I’d had this when I was a kid,” said Darrell Blackwelder, a horticulture agent with the Rowan County Cooperative Extension.
Blackwelder is helping the school plan the garden, which will be on two acres or so of land near the front of the building.
Liz Driscoll, a 4-H specialist in horticulture for N.C. State University, is helping, too. So is Stephen Brown, a local landscape architect.
Brown volunteered his expertise and drew plans for the garden, which could take years to complete.
The plans include a central shelter and four teaching stations. A butterfly and bird garden will be nestled in a corner, and the seasonal garden will feature plants for each of the four seasons.
Camelia and winter jasmine could grow in the winter section, while crops like cotton could be the summer feature, Brown said.
If it all sounds complex, it is. Blackwelder said the school needs at least $50,000 for the project.
“It’s an ambitious plan, but we want it to be perfect,” Blackwelder said.
The school is looking for donations, and school leaders plan to apply for some grants.
Millbridge teachers and students gathered outside the building Wednesday to celebrate their future garden. The agriculture theme of the celebration was obvious.
School principal David Miller and assistant principal Dr. Angela Lingle-Linder raced around with shopping carts, looking for items from a grocery list. They had to look through brown bags to find things like green peppers and tomatoes.
Before the festivities began, Miller said he’s excited about his school’s plans for a garden.
“I think we have to look at new ways to do things,” Miller said. “More hands-on activities. … It’s an extension of the classroom.”
Plans for a garden have been in the works at Millbridge for about a year. The theme of the school’s reading program last year was “growing great readers.”
The idea expanded from there: Millbridge doesn’t want to only grow literate students, but some flowers, too.
Michelle Patterson, a local farmer and Millbridge PTA member, wants students to realize the importance of agriculture. She participated in the events at school Wednesday.
“Kids think things just show up at the grocery store,” Patterson said.
“I think our whole society has gotten so far from agriculture.”
Work on the garden will likely start soon. Blackwelder said the project could take five years.
Donations will likely be key.
“We’re lucky,” Miller said. “We get a lot of support from our community.”The school PTA already paid the county to expand an irrigation line into the future garden.
And Miller Davis Studios, a Salisbury advertising company, donated a sign for the place.
Blackwelder hopes other local schools will follow along and create their own gardens.
“It’s going to be a really great teaching garden,” he said.

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