By Dana Delgado
BERTRAM — These are exciting times for Bertram Elementary School. Two Green Thumbs-Up Exciting!
Two greatly welcomed and much appreciated school improvement grants have been awarded to Bertram Elementary, which is a part of the Burnet Consolidated School District.
One award is a $5,000 Toolbox for Education grant funded from Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation and provides for rainwater harvesting, landscaping, and several keyhole “pocket” gardens on the historic campus.
The school was one of more than 580 schools across the country to receive the Lowe’s grant for school improvement projects.
The second grant, a $500 award from the Captain Planet Foundation, provides supplementary funding for a keyhole garden as well as supplies and equipment for gardening activities and hands-on lessons.
Joyce Gholson, the fifth grade teacher who wrote the grant and will oversee and coordinate the project, says the awards open a world of possibilities and opportunities for students, staff and the community.
Mrs. Gholson said she is assembling a planning team including staff and community members to lay out plans to enhance the campus, build keyhole gardens, add vegetable gardens, create stone or brick pathways, and install a rainwater harvesting system to enrich student learning through a multi-disciplinary approach.
Student activities will incorporate all subjects including math, science and language arts as they explore a variety of topics including water and soil conservation, recycling/repurposing, and composting while experiencing natural gardening.
The District Facilities Director needs to evaluate the grounds first says the grant coordinator.
Keyhole gardens are well-suited to Texas’ harsh summers especially heat and drought conditions. About 70 students at a time from second through fifth grades in the ACE afterschool gardening enrichment classes will implement the program, but all students will be able to benefit from the outdoor green spaces, according to Mrs. Gholson.
“We’re excited to get it going,” said Mrs. Gholson, “The kids come from a range of backgrounds and experiences, but all are dying to get outside and garden.”
The project will officially get underway this spring and will fuse with ongoing activities. Students have been learning about gardening including seed germination and have been pruning, weeding and preparing beds for planting.
Community partners that have jumped in to support the project include area Master Gardeners, Bugz Pest and Lawn, Mojo Distributing, Garry Montgomery Stonemasonry, and Rain Harvest Resources. In addition, Ranchers Feed and Supply and High Mowing Organic Seed Company have donated seeds, and former Bertram Teacher Virginia Downing has enthusiastically returned to school to take a lead teaching role in the gardening project. Plans are also being considered for greater parent involvement in the various activities.
Much is still needed for the project, says Mrs. Gholson, including matching funds as well donations of materials and support from a stonemason.
Individuals, businesses or community groups interested in assisting the school with the projects are invited to contact the school at (512) 355-2111. Progress on the projects can be seen on the Bertram Elementary Gardening Club Facebook page.