Global Garden Expands
In January of 2008, Global Gardens grew into a second site, Rosa Parks Elementary, located within the Union Public School District. This was an important step for Global Gardens as it was our first opportunity to see if the magic that had been created at our first school, Eugene Field Elementary in Tulsa, could be replicated.
This was also a very important move for me because it was at this time that I was hired to begin the program at the new site.
Beginning Global Gardens in a new school is an epic adventure, to say the least. I came in with a concrete visual of the magical garden that exists at Eugene Field, but the children sitting in front of me had no concept of that garden and sometimes not even of a garden itself. Yet, it is not the teacher, but this first group of gardeners that would become the true visionaries of their program.
The schools with a Global Gardens program offer a variety of other after-school programming for students to join, ranging from bicycling club to art, robotics to choir, all of which students can attend the first day and can typically perform their first activity on day one.
But the children who sign up for the founding group of Global Gardens attend trusting that someday a garden will occupy the field outside, but they have months of work ahead of them to even begin to see the first bit of soil unearthed. Essentially, those third-, fourth- and fifth-graders are choosing to participate twice a week in a program based almost entirely upon hope!
It was that same hope that led the Rosa Parks students through the wintery months of indoor dreaming, discussion and planning and delivered them to the exciting first days of spring and a box of new seed packets. These hopeful children had grown to understand that by planting the initial seeds, their space would never again be the same. The tiny seeds contained the strength to change not only their school, but their lives as well. For some, it would give a love of gardening and science; for others, it would give a new thread of communication and alliance for their family; for still others, it would support their family’s grocery budget; for all, it would give a feeling of pride.
This young group had done all of the leg work to this point — dreaming, digging, building, hauling, painting — but now that it was time to plant the first seeds, they wanted to invite the larger community to join them as they knew that the garden was not just their own, but something that would give much to many.
So they created an event called A Celebration of Hope and made invitations to send to everyone whom they felt should know about their new garden (this included parents, grandparents and friends, as well as Oprah, Beyonce, presidential candidates, and even the Pope!).
The Global Gardens students researched hopeful traditions around the world and found inspiration from the colorful flags that are strung through the mountains of Tibet. They decided to make their own, which they called “Hope Flags.” Cloth was cut, dyed, stacked and placed on tables along with colorful markers on the day of the event. As guests arrived, the gardeners encouraged everyone to write messages of hope for the garden, their families, their communities, and the world on the flags that would later be sewn on a line and strung to fly over the garden.
In the end, the day was beautiful, the messages were beautiful, the hundreds of flags flying high around the garden were beautiful, and the garden grew into yet another magical space. The students have continued to believe that the Hope Flags played a large part in the success of their garden, and they have continued to host the Celebration of Hope annually on the first planting day of spring.
Years have passed and Global Gardens has continued to grow into new locations, leaving a legacy of magical gardens dreamed up by founding gardening groups with enough hope to carry a community. This January, we happily grew to yet another school, McAuliffe Elementary School, and as you read this there is a wonderful new founding group of gardeners who believe that the space outside will someday become a garden and are already planning their first Celebration of Hope. Along with invitations to their parents, friends, handfuls of celebrities and dignitaries near and far, they want to invite all of the TulsaKids readers to come to the event to help plant the first seeds of the garden and create hope flags to be hung in the McAuliffe garden, as well as in your own! You don’t need to bring anything with you, just yourselves… oh, and a whole lot of hope!