Woodrow Wilson High School art teachers Miranda Korschun and Jessica Martinez have a vision for a peaceful garden. They are transforming an underused, dumping ground of a space on the campus into “The Art/Peace Garden” that will feed body and soul. And they are counting on East Dallas neighbors to make it happen.
One day as they walked the campus in search of areas to display students’ art, they discovered an unused courtyard just across the hall from one of their classrooms. “It was full of abandoned furniture, big bags of potting soil and piles of lumber,” Korschun says. “I proposed we create a peace garden there.”
Where most would see an industrial space bordered by a giant A/C unit and three tall, weathered-brick walls, these teachers saw potential. Korschun dreams of tall-backed benches to block the less-than-serene view. Martinez points to a sunny corner as the ideal location for rows of potatoes and cages of tomatoes. Both imagine flowers, vegetables, tables and chairs. Produce will be donated to the Peace Pantry, housed at Woodrow and available to students and their families.
Both expect students to be involved in designing, creating, and maintaining the garden. “We’d like a space where students can work peacefully and safely, outside in the sunshine,” Korschun says. “The garden will give them a beautiful space to create and reflect, while instilling a sense of ownership and responsibility for working to raise produce and other plants.”
The space is primarily a project for members of the Art/Poetry/Gardening Club. At weekly meetings, members have the option of working on art, poetry or in the garden, as the club name suggests.
Woodrow junior Rolando Bolanos is eager to dig in the dirt. “Having a garden club will be great,” he says. “I have my own garden at home so I’m extremely passionate about gardening. The idea of having one at school and tending a garden with fellow classmates sounds great to me.” He says he is eager to hone his gardening skills, but he can foresee an added benefit to tending plants. “Teaching patience,” he says, “which my generation seems to lack.”
Other departments at Woodrow are lending a hand. Engineering students might apply their skills at designing raised garden beds and movable shelving.
Korschun and Martinez hope East Dallas neighbors will donate outdoor furniture, pots, containers, gardening tools and more. Equally important is help from experienced gardeners.
While the vegetable garden’s harvest will feed the body, the space is also intended to nourish the soul. Club members may find inspiration for paintings, drawings and poems. But the art teachers hope the space will become a popular mini-field trip for teachers of all subjects. “A quiet, serene space would give easily distracted students a better chance to learn to focus,” Martinez says.
Martinez has a personal interest in providing such a space. “As someone who was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in high school, I understand how vital quiet spaces are,” she says. She sites statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health, which estimate a third of all teens suffer from anxiety. “Allowing students and staff a quiet place where they can find a quiet moment to do classwork, have lunch or just take a moment to breathe is an important goal for the garden’s use.”
The teachers hope that the garden lifts students’ spirits.
“We’re trying to grow things,” Martinez says. “We’re looking at student growth, not just plant yields.”
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