Drive by Liberty High School and you can catch an eyeful of color and greenery, courtesy of teacher Steve Jordan's horticulture class.
There's a large planter box marking the school's main entrance. Students put their gardening skills to work by cleaning it up and planning a new landscape for the area. A foundation of redwood bark is dotted with pansies, yucca trees, ornamental garlic grass, lavender, African daisies, a crepe myrtle tree and a butterfly bush. A curvy strip of darker bark outlines a symbolic stream across the bed.
"The kids have really respected the project. The neighborhood cats don't," joked Jordan. A few crushed mothballs helped repel the felines.
One of Jordan's skills is in gathering donations and bringing forgotten plants back to life. The crepe myrtle was recused from a trash heap. A nursery going out of business donated several near-death yuccas, but Jordan's students rehabilitated the trees to their present vitality.
"It's nice to learn from books, but it's also nice to learn in a hands-on way. You never know which one of these kids is going to use this in the future," said Liz Zastrow, a program specialist for WorkAbility. It's a career/vocational program for special education students, but they also provided funding for the beautification project.
Planning the landscape took a bit of creativity. Jordan tried to explain the layout using a pen-and-ink blueprint, but the students just couldn't visualize it. The class took their plants to the site and arranged them in different formations until they got a set up that made sense for each plant.
"I didn't know anything about it (before the project). I wouldn't be able to say the names of any of these plants if it weren't for this class," said Mandy Daniels, a senior at Liberty.
Jordan has other plans in the works. The next project will beautify three planters at Needham Elementary School. The class has two greenhouses overstuffed with plants behind the school, as well as dozens of cuttings, seedlings and other plants waiting for a home.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.