‘Enchanted Garden’ comes to East Portland grade school

Look at how many donors and volunteers came to help, at Menlo Park Elementary School in outer East Portland …

Many volunteers come out to transform an outdoor space between classroom buildings into the “Menlo Park Enchanted Garden”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Activity was abundant between buildings on March 26, as scores of volunteers pitched in to build a new garden in the Hazelwood neighborhood at Menlo Park Elementary School – at 12900 NE Glisan Street.

Although rain was forecast for the day, the sun shone brilliantly, warming the workers who were ripping out sod and constructing raised garden beds, as they built what the students had named the “Menlo Park Enchanted Garden”.

Pausing from their garden-building day are Menlo Park Elementary Garden Coordinator Elizabeth Archodominion and Principal Kellie Burkhardt.

“We are building this garden to provide a supplemental educational resource,” explained Menlo Park Elementary Garden Coordinator Elizabeth Archodominion.

“The idea is to get kids out doors, providing hands-on activities to help students learn about nutrition, natural habitats, food systems, and sustainability,” Archodominion told East Portland News.

Young garden box builder Jackson Martel keeps hardware ready for construction.

With a degree in botany, and having studied horticulture, Archodominion is well qualified to lead the project. “But, being a parent of kids who attend Menlo Park is another impetus for me to help out. I feel it is important for students to have more experiences with real-world situations, like seeing where their food comes from.

“After about reading about natural habitats, it’s essential for students to actually take part in improving habitats,” Archodominion added. “And, eating organic foods and tasting them freshly-picked from the garden gives them a totally different experience of what food can be.”

Being outside is also vital to helping students thrive, Archodominion opined. “It’s important to me for kids to get outside and move their bodies. Having these experiences addresses their whole selves, not just their mental learning.”

While some volunteers build, these young helpers shovel garden soil into wheelbarrows.

Menlo Park Principal Kellie Burkhardt said she was thrilled at the support of the parents and community in this school project.

“I found that students are more motivated to learn when they can actually see and experience nature – more so, than learning about it from a book,” Burkhardt remarked, as volunteers were hammering together raised garden bed boxes.

“I feel this is a great avenue for students to expand their reading, writing, and math skills with these hands-on experiences out of doors,” Burkhardt observed. “It also gives students a real-world view of how they can bring what they’ve learned to their own homes – encouraging their families to put gardens on their patio or in their back yard.”

Many volunteers help to transform the space into a garden laboratory.

In addition to the school getting a garden, the event also helps in another, important way, she said. “Having the parents here, they ‘buy into the project’ and this helps their kids to be excited coming to school. And, they’re all here with their families, taking part in this, as a community building exercise.”

Archodominion pointed out that many donations made the garden possible.

East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Alaska Organic Fertilizer, Home Depot, Portland Nursery, and DonorsChoose contributed goods and funding. Whole Foods and New Seasons Market hosted a snack table for the volunteers.

“Also, the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology donated curriculum to teach the kids about bird habitats,” Archodominion said.

Here’s what the space looks like, after the long day of labor. Contributed image

By the end of the day, the volunteers from sponsoring companies, parents, booster club members, and teachers, helped turn open space between classroom buildings into the new “Enchanted Garden”.

To follow the progress of their garden, see their Weebly webpage: CLICK HERE.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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