On Wednesday, the Junior Master Gardeners of West Side Elementary School in Greers Ferry celebrated a dedication ceremony for their Wild Life Habitat.

On Wednesday, the Junior Master Gardeners of West Side Elementary School in Greers Ferry celebrated a dedication ceremony for their Wild Life Habitat.  In attendance were: Andy Chisum, Superintendent of West Side School District, Greers Ferry;  John Long, Principal of West Side Elementary School; fifth and six grade Junior Master Gardener students and their teachers, Melody West, Debbie Smith, Kirby Mize, Shawna Francisco; Cleburne County Master Gardeners, Alice George, Carolyn Goettsch, Mary Howard, Sandy Mills, Baron Wylie; and Junior Master Gardener Project Co-Chairs, Sandra James and Darlene O’Connor.


 As one of Cleburne County’s Master Gardener Projects, the garden reflects the efforts of the school’s Junior Master Gardeners, their teachers, and the Master Gardener Committee.  The students learn about, implement, and maintain the school site gardens during the school year; and when the students are not in school, the Master Gardener Committee maintains the gardens during the summer. The mission of this program is to instill a knowledge and appreciation of horticulture; and of how it affects us, and the surrounding wildlife.  It has been a group effort, comprising of the fifth and six grade students, to make their school gardens a successful endeavor.  They have taken lessons learned, to research the plants they want included in their gardens.


The Junior Master Gardeners also have a Good Food Garden, which was awarded to the school via a Food Network, “Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry” nationwide competition.  As part of their award, the students received a Teich Raised Garden Bed System, built by a team from Teich Garden Systems LLC.  In it, the students plant vegetable and fruit seeds and seedlings, as well as herbs, which they maintain and harvest throughout the school year.  Their Wild Life Habitat was established through the “Project WILD”, Arkansas Schoolyard Habitat Grant Application, written by former Cleburne County Master Gardener Linda Lynch, and Cleburne County Extension Agent Michelle Mobley.  The grant is afforded through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Education and Information Bureau. The Wild Life Habitat is a work in progress, and it currently includes four large raised beds in which the students plant flowers, vegetables, and herbs to attract the surrounding wild life.


This year they also included two heirloom apple trees, a Newtown Pippen and a Spitzenburg, which were two favorites of President George Washington and President Thomas Jefferson.


The Junior Master Gardener Program provides guest lectures on a monthly basis, providing a variety of horticultural and wild life lessons.  Our lesson schedule included: “P.L.A.N.T.S.” (Place, Light, Air, Nutrients, Thirsty, Soil), presented by Michelle Mobley; “Planting a Vegetable Garden Using Square Foot Gardening”, presented and directed by Sandra James; “Identifying Arkansas Trees” presented by Darlene O’Connor; “Planning Your Wild Life Garden” presented by Mary Howard; “Cooking With Herbs” presented by Sandra James; a “Bee Program” presented by Jon Zawislak; and “Planting Our Wild Life Habitat Garden”, directed by Darlene O’Connor.