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UPCOMING EVENTS
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by Monica Brandies

 

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The Kathleen Carr Reading Garden Is Dedicated at Dover Elementary

Dover Elementary School in Dover, Florida is described by the principal Marie Cracciola as "A joyous place to be." And that joy found extra expression recently at the dedication on June 4 of the new Kathleen Carr Reading Garden where children blossom.

Kathy Carr was principal there from 1995 until she retired at the end of the school year in 2006. Before that she was vice principal starting in 1989. "I don't know whose idea the garden was originally," she says, "but I always have felt that reading is very important to the students. I was thrilled when reading and flowers came together in a garden plan they showed me at my retirement party. It had already been approved."


Former students rush to hug Ms. Carr when she they see her in the garden. The mural on the far wall includes many of their favorite storybook characters and scenes.

The garden has been evolving every since and is now official, planting, blooming, and growing. Though it promises to be more and more beautiful as the allamanda, mandevillas, and confederate jasmine, all blooming now but still small, climb the trellises and the lath, and the million bells and shooting stars spread and multiply.

Most of the students walk by or through the garden several times a day. The walks are made up of stepping stones purchased by 250 to 280 of the families and painted by the students and teachers as requested. It makes them all feel they are a part of the garden.

What is more, 99% of the actual planting and spreading of 525 bags of mulch was done by parents and students. Everyone was especially thrilled the day these photos were taken by the new solar fountain. On cloudy days it will rest. When the sun comes out, it becomes a fountain again.

A huge oak tree had already dominated the center of the courtyard that is surrounded by the classrooms. This is a garden you have to go inside to see. Mulch was spread and picnic tables placed under the shade of the tree where classes can be held outdoors or students can read in their spare time.

Most dramatic at the moment is the mural on the far wall of many of the children's favorite storybook characters and scenes: the cow jumping over the moon, Cinderella and the prince, Humpty Dumpty, Peter Pan. The students had a hand in the painting as well.

When Ms. Carr returns to visit, the older students and teachers stop to greet and hug her. And she remembers them fondly. "It is a great school where students lead their younger brothers and sisters to class and parents set aside a day every spring to clean up and help. The garden means a great deal to these children who may not have a flower garden at home, but who are very aware of then earth and its bounty and connection with our food."

The school garden itself is quiet extensive. It was designed by Wendy Maxwell. Of the original design, many modifications in plant selection and general set up were determined by cost, donations and ease of maintenance. Ninfa Guerra-Rodriguez, teacher of grade 3, has been instrumental in coordinating this venture.

The mural was the inspiration of Dover teacher Luis Velasquez and Dover Guidance Counselor Nancy Berrios. After planning the mural, kids would comment on various story book characters and some of those characters were incorporated into the mural. Fifth grade student Ashante Outlaw named the wall "The Wall of Wonder" aka the WOW Wall.

As the garden matures, there will be bugs and butterflies to study. Birds will come to the bird bath and very likely flirt with the fountain. Already the green, green grass stands as a triumph over the drought of spring. By the time these children come back in the fall, they are going to be amazed, and it will only get better and better as time goes by.

This Reading Garden where students blossom is dedicated to former principal Kathleen Carr, 1995-2006 as a retirement gift.

Left: The bus topped with giant butterflies is close to the actual butterfly section of the garden.

Below: Kathleen Carr reads with some of the students under the oak tree at the gardens center.

 

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