Two APS elementary schools welcomed a large group of Division I NCAA athletes over the past weekend, which included building teamwork skills with students and helping build gardens on school grounds.
Over at Mary Lin, third-grade teacher Lindsay Wyczalkowski helped bring in the group, which divided up into teams and completed an array of projects to create an outdoor classroom. This, according to Wyczalkowski, included an outdoor chalkboard for lessons, the addition of 11 new garden beds (which will give Mary Lin a total of 21 garden beds in its Edible Garden), two bird observation gardens, and other beautification projects.
“Our school will not only have an indoor space, but an outdoor space to fully integrate the environment into each one of our students learning experiences,” Wyczalkowski said. “The thing that I am most excited about and what I feel sets us apart is the fact that the teachers at Mary Lin are on the forefront of this vision.”
Wyczalkowski added that the school has a committee that works together to make all the decisions about the Lin Edible Garden and who shares lesson ideas. “Our committee has a teacher member from every grade level and includes specialists,” she notes. “Everyone is weaving the environment and the garden into their teaching, from music, to art, to fifth-grade social studies. The teachers work as a team but we also have a parent committee equally committed to our vision who supports the teachers. These two fundamental teams, plus the support of our leadership completes the puzzle.”
The true star appearance came not from an athlete but from U.S. Congressman and civil rights legend John Lewis (pictured). Lewis spoke with a panel of students about being a public servant and discussed what it was like to work in Washington, D.C. He spoke about how building our garden together shows who we are as a community. And as you can see, he got his hands dirty as well, digging in the garden.
Over at Burgess-Peterson Academy, about 50 athletes showed up to work with 20 students. Elijah Graves, a fifth-grader, had a blast working with athletes from Temple, USC, UNC-Chapel Hill, Coppin State and other schools. “We played basketball, and we played a game where my partner Brian linked together with me so we would play soccer together and work together,” Elijah said. “It was fun to work with adults and to be active with them. They taught us how to play fair.”
Dr. Marilyn Hughes (pictured, above) was on hand to observe the building of more gardens in a school that’s already won a Healthy Schools Award from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. She was thrilled to see so much parent support in the build. “It’s very hard for us to sustain gardens unless we have parental support,” Hughes said. “They are a part of the community, who can combine with our other partners for watering and general maintenance.
“This continues a trend of national leadership for the district in the promotion of wellness in the school setting,” Hughes said. “I’m just so excited they could make it because some of the parents had some scheduling changes.”