• Sept. 9, 2019

    Boyce courtyard transforms into garden

    Girl Scout volunteers After three years, many hands and lots of hard work, Boyce Middle School’s outdoor courtyard has been transformed into a fully functioning garden and serene setting – perfect for young readers in need of a quiet space.

    The transformation was made possible through the collective efforts of many groups and individuals including Holly Fisher, Boyce Middle School’s nurse; Boyce Student Council; the Boyce Parent Teacher Organization; staff and families; and a group of local Girl Scouts.

    The four Girl Scouts – ninth graders Olivia Cuba, Kate Robbins, Anna McElligott and Kara Fisher – served as key volunteers throughout the summer as part of their Girl Scout Silver Award efforts. The Girl Scout Silver Award is the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette can earn. The award recognized students in sixth, seventh or eighth grade for making a difference in their communities.

    “I have enjoyed so much about this project especially working with the Girl Scouts,” Mrs. Fisher said.

    Olivia stated that the goal of the project was to turn the unoccupied area of the school into a quiet spot that promotes education, relaxation and fresh air for the more than 600 students who attend Boyce Middle School.

    “That’s why, along with the newly planted garden, you can find educational materials that allow the students to explore the garden and collaborate with peers,” Olivia said.

    Boyce Courtyard Dan O’Rourke, Boyce Middle School principal, described the courtyard’s original condition as “a jungle.” Volunteers worked tirelessly to remove overgrown bushes and trees, clear weeds, install landscaping fabric, spread mulch, build and fill raised planters, and plant a number of fruits, vegetables and flowers. The area now includes benches and numerous planters with strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkins and spinach as well as lilies and two butterfly bushes. 

    “It has been incredibly rewarding to work collaboratively with so many different groups and individuals toward a common goal,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “The garden presented a unique opportunity for our students where they literally get to see the fruits of their labor.” 

    Ultimately, Mr. O’Rourke hopes the garden becomes a valued extension of the classroom.

    “We will continue to work with our faculty and staff to help identify natural connections within the curriculum,” he said. “Whether our sixth grade science teachers use the resource in conjunction with the unit on plants or our ELA teachers use it as inspiration for a writing lesson, there are numerous opportunities for teaching and learning.”

    Mrs. Fisher sees endless possibilities for incorporating the courtyard into the normal school day and beyond.

    “Some teachers are just excited to have an alternative place to take students to learn,” she said. “Our IB students will also have the opportunity to complete community service hours with their families to help to maintain our garden in the summer.”

    Incorporated into the courtyard is a rock garden that was created by Boyce Student Council. Last year Student Council purchased enough rocks for each sixth grader to write his/her name on a rock and add to the rock garden.

    “The rock project was a Student Council idea that a few kids had last year. It was in an attempt to boost school spirit and enhance our newly updated Garden,” Justin Gremba, sixth grade math teacher and student council sponsor, said. “We wanted each student to have ownership in our project so we had each of them decorate their own rock with their name and symbols that represent them.”

    Mr. Gremba expects the rock project to serve as a recurring event for each class.

    “This year the project will be in January or February,” he said. “The rocks are then laid out as their graduation year, and displayed in the courtyard.  The rocks from last year will then be moved into a different location.”

    The project has been rewarding for all involved.

    “The part I have loved the most is stepping out of my health office role and being part of a project that is going to have a positive impact on every student who comes through Boyce,” Mrs. Fisher said. “I want the students to see how rewarding it is to plant something, watch it grow, then be able to harvest the final product.”

    While the transformation from jungle to serene garden has been significant, the team at Boyce is not ready to rest on their laurels.

    “Our next step is to partner with some of our colleagues at the high school to further improve this space,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “We are hoping the high school’s STEAM class can assist us with a solution to connect our rain barrel to existing water run-off. And, we’re looking forward to working with our science curriculum leader, Lynn Kistler, to make improvements for next year regarding what, where and when to plant.”

    To ensure the courtyard’s long-term sustainability, Mr. O’Rourke is hopeful that a Boyce Middle School student club will embrace the garden and courtyard and its ongoing maintenance. Anyone interested in assisting with the Boyce Middle School garden project is encouraged to contact Mr. O’Rourke at dorourke@uscsd.k12.pa.us or Mrs. Fisher at hfisher@uscsd.k12.pa.us.