Community partnership helps support outdoor learning at Creeskide Intermediate School in Dexter
The indoor-outdoor connection is a big part of the Kitchen-Garden Program at Creekside Intermediate School. That’s why the new outdoor space at the school is such a great addition.
The school held a ribbon cutting for the new space on Oct. 25, and on hand were the different people and groups who helped make it happen. These included the Education Foundation of Dexter, Lotus Gardenscapes, students, teachers, family, school board members and school district staff.
The ribbon cutting ceremony was a way to celebrate the opening of the new outdoor learning space at the fifth- and sixth-grade school. Students took visitors on tours of the gardens that make up the outdoor portion of the program. The Sun Times News was in attendance and connected with some of the students as well as one of the teachers.
Of the new addition, sixth-grade teacher Kirsten Korff said, “We wanted to create a space outside of the kitchen classroom - in our garden area for students to gather for kitchen/garden lessons and have a designated space for outdoor classroom activities.”
She said this space would support the kitchen/garden FLEX class and the after-school kitchen/garden club for extended learning opportunities. It will also serve as a space for any Creekside class to use and enjoy, she said. The kitchen-garden program is helped by the partnership between Dexter Community Schools, the Dexter Wellness Coalition and the 5 Healthy Towns Foundation.
With it being fall, the gardens were in a transition point, but they were still beautiful and vibrant. The gardens includes one for vegetables, another for herbs, one for pollinators and then the Three Sisters garden, which uses a 3,000-year-old planting method of growing corn, beans, and squash together.
STN took the tour with Creekside students Aubrey M. and Vivian. Both gave a detailed walk through the different gardens. Aubrey said the Three Sisters was her favorite because it’s good to see the plants depending on each other.
Of the new outdoor space, Korff said they envisioned a space with picnic tables and some shade.
“We knew it would not make sense to put the picnic tables directly on the grass because that would be hard for buildings and grounds to mow around,” she said. “We needed a more permanent surface. I decided to write a grant through the EFD - the Education Foundation of Dexter, and see if they might be able to help us financially with creating the space.”
The help came and she received the grant from the EFD. Kelly Parachek, a fifth-grade teacher, Francie Wesorick, Creekside Garden Coordinator from 5 Healthy Towns and Creekside Principal Tammy Reich were Korff’s partners in this endeavor.
“Then came the big obstacle, how do we level a surface for the tables and make it handicap accessible at the same time?” Korff said looking back at the planning. “I talked with many experts in the field and everyone said this is going to be a very difficult and expensive project. I was feeling pretty defeated - that is when I reached out to some local landscape companies to see if they might be able to help or even partner with us on the space. Lotus Gardenscapes answered the call and said they would love to see the space and figure out how they might be able to help. After a very rainy June meeting, it was decided that Lotus would love to help us with the space.”
And they did help make it a reality with support from the EFD as well as with some help from students who raised donations through the Creekside Move It Day.
The 644 square foot paved outdoor education space is now in use.
STN connected with one of the partners, Ellen Moore, the General Manager of Lotus Gardenscapes.
“Lotus Gardenscapes believes in giving back to and participating in our local community,” she said. “We were happy to help enrich the Creekside Garden program with a space where students and teachers can meet and learn.”
She said for these community projects, Lotus provides discounted material and donates skills, expertise, and equipment while the staff donates their time.
“This project became particularly near to our hearts as we will be able to dedicate the space to one of our crew leader's young daughters, Amaris, who passed away after a long health struggle during this project,” Moore said. “Thank you for welcoming Lotus into the Creekside community and for the chance to create this whimsical space.”
The end goal is to help nurture the whole student. The space now adds another part to the program that aims to provide great indoor and outdoor learning with social interaction, emotional well-being and physical activity.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony the students served cookies they baked from the pumpkins grown in the garden. They were delicious.