By Brenda L. Holmes
Students, gardeners, and educators helped to showcase the growing sustainability movement and the benefits of gardening during a special statewide effort titled “Celebrating Indiana’s Gardens.”
Sustainable Indiana 2016 is a collaborative initiative of Earth Charter Indiana (ECI) to achieve measurable progress toward sustainability by Indiana’s Bicentennial year of 2016.
Jennifer Davies is the instructor for the Avon Outdoor Learning Center. She was contacted to ask if the garden between Maple and White Oak elementary schools could be a part of a statewide “garden party” event Saturday.
“The learning center exists to supplement what the students are learning in the classroom,” Davies said. “We take what they are learning in math, sociology, and science and help them in an actual Outdoor experience. When you learn with all your senses, it makes the learning so much more meaningful.”
Davies started a garden club for third- and fourth-graders at both elementary schools.
“We had 76 kids sign up, so we need a couple more adults to come and help us with all these kids,” she said. “It’s wonderful to be able to show them that you can feed your family. It’s really wonderful to be able to pass this on to them.”
Gardens from throughout Indiana held events last weekend to showcase their ideas of sustainability. But what is sustainability?
According to the Sustainable Indiana 2016 website, “sustainability is living in a state of harmony and balance with each other and nature so that the entire interdependent web of life is perpetually healthy and prosperous.” The organization’s motto breaks that down to: “enough for all forever.”
On Saturday, individuals, schools, garden clubs, churches, and universities hosted local garden parties, offering attendees opportunities to tour a variety of gardens, exchange gardening knowledge, and enjoy treats.
Using vegetables from the Avon garden, Davies made three types of salsa for visitors to taste.
In addition, gardens/gardeners were recognized and added to Indiana’s Bicentennial Green-Legacy Leader Honor Roll. “Celebrating Indiana Gardens” was the first in Sustainable Indiana 2016’s series of five annual citizen-involvement efforts to showcase Indiana’s potential to position itself as a national leader in green innovation and preservation by the state’s bicentennial in 2016.
Sustainable Indiana 2016’s state coordinator, John Gibson, said he believes gardening represents an important foundation of Indiana’s green legacy.
“Gardening fosters food security, care for the land, and community connections, all of which contribute to a more sustainable future for Indiana,” Gibson said in a press release.
Carol Ford has been helping to develop and maintain the Avon Outdoor Learning Center for many years.
“This garden was made possible by grants and funds from Lowe’s, IU Health, and Cardno JFNew,” she said. “JFNew gave us a grant for 1,400 plants and Keller-Williams came out and planted them with the Master Gardeners.”
She said the Hendricks County Master Gardeners help with the weeding on a weekly basis and that the Avon Education Foundation helped to build a greenhouse.
Ford has nothing but praise for Davies who she says works to find grant funds to continue the learning center.
“Jennifer has been a blessing,” she said. “And you should see her with students. She’s amazing.”
Davies said it will be a struggle to continue the learning center as its funding has been eliminated from the Avon Community School Corporation’s budget.
“Our budget is $21,000 a year,” she said. “The community rallied and we were able to raise $17,000 in six months to be able to continue to operate. And that was with a $10,000 donation from our buddies at CSX.”
Unfortunately, she said, the learning center is now back where it started and is in dire need of funds.
“We have $16,000 left and that includes my wages,” she said. “And we had 6,500 kids come through the center last year.”
She said Avon students are not the only benefactors of the Avon Outdoor Learning Center.
“We have students from our neighboring school districts and places like the Early Childhood Learning Center coming out,” she said. “Our school administration is backing us 100 percent and we are determined to make this a long-term project. We will find a solution.”
For more information on the Avon Outdoor Learning Center, find it on Facebook.