Student garden club sprouts at North

Tim Smith helps Savanah Johnson with her birdhouse while Kimberly Hoch, right, pounds a nail into her’s. Judy DeStefano, the leader of the North Elementary garden club, is in back right corner.
Tim Smith helps Savanah Johnson with her birdhouse while Kimberly Hoch, right, pounds a nail into her’s. Judy DeStefano, the leader of the North Elementary garden club, is in back right corner.

The sound of hammers on nails filled the air of the cafeteria at Princeton’s North Elementary last Thursday morning as the members of the school’s new garden club built wren houses.

The membership is made up of a half dozen fourth and fifth graders, led by playground monitor Judy DeStefano, who donates her time for the club.

The club was started when principal John Beach and the school’s behavioral intervention specialist Judy Hovis started thinking about what to do about the badly-damaged school garden on the northwest side of the school. The garden was there before Beach came to the school a dozen years ago, but it was in his words, “demolished” by the time the school’s remodeling and addition project was completed about two years ago. The installation of a nearby fire lane/driveway damaged the garden as well, said Beach last week.

The idea took hold to start a garden club, made up of a small group of fourth and fifth graders, to resurrect the garden. Hovis was chosen to select students to be the club members who she thought would benefit from the experience, and DeStefano was asked to be the advisor because of her interest in gardening.

The club has been meeting for 30-45 minutes on Thursday mornings since last October. The students discuss projects during the meetings and carry them out. The projects have included weeding the garden, which DeStefano indicated is in two sections, building six bird feeders and setting them out on the property, decorating pens to sell in the school store as a fundraiser to buy a wooden barrel planter, and now building the wren houses. Playground monitor Tim Smith, who likes watching birds and has a fondness for the whistling sound of wrens, donated and precut the pine board sections for the bird houses. Then he and DeStefano supervised the construction, including starting the nails straight in the wood. The club plans to paint the birdhouses next.

Another club discussion going on is about the seeds and plants that the club wants to plant  in the garden next spring. The club already expects some spring flowers to emerge in the spring from the flower bulbs the members planted last fall.

One more planned garden club activity will be to assist the high school’s horticulture students when they go to North Elementary on Jan. 29 to place plants into 35-40 decorated flower pots. North will then distribute the potted plants around the city of Princeton Jan. 30-31 as part of an annual project the school has conducted for many years. That is to make residents more aware of the school and its Tiger Pride program of promoting respectful behavior. For many years the school has hand painted ceramic figurines, such as tigers, and placed them around town.

North’s distribution of potted plants will fit the school’s theme this year of Tiger Pride is Growing, principal Beach said.

The garden club students will not only be helping with the project but they will also have the chance to learn about plants from the horticulture students, Hovis said.

The garden club members seemed to enjoy making the birdhouses, as evidenced by the following remarks from garden club members:

“I think we should build more stuff,” said Kimberly Hock. “This is really fun.”

“I think it’s a good experience, working with nails,” said Hanna Beck. “It’s a fun project to do in school.”

“I think it’s good for the animals so they have some place to sleep,” said Sam Orth. “It’s good working with hammers and nails. Everybody’s doing really good.”

“I think it’s a fun project to do,” said Charlie York. “We should do a lot more stuff like this.”

“It’s just fun building things,” said Johanna Kostanshek.

Savanah Johnson seemed to be looking forward to painting the birdhouse she assembled. She plans to first apply a coat of white paint and then paint on polka dots in colors of orange, blue, lime green and yellow “because that’s what my room is.”