Students planning garden in memory of Vail Johnson
by Don Munsch
Susan Chance has nothing but praise for a project being done in her daughter’s name at Pilot Point Intermediate School.
Vail’s Garden is an “awesome” project, Chance said. The garden involves elements important to her daughter’s life, such as learning and nature. “I think it’s going to be something that’ll inspire the kids to learn because it’s a different space; it’s kind of exciting to be able to go outside,” Chance said.
The garden will be built in memory of Vail Johnson, 9, a fourth-grader at the school when she died at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.
The project began last spring, said Margie Nisbett, assistant principal. The school’s students have started raising money for the garden, which will have multiple purposes.
“The community groups and the Friends of Vail organization and our school – we were looking for a project to do in honor of her,” Nisbett said, referring to Johnson.
Pilot Point Intermediate’s Honor Council, a group of fifth-and sixth-graders, took over the project and designed the layout and budget for the garden. “It’s one of their service projects that they’re working on right now,” Nisbett said. “So we’ve tried to get it in their hands to develop it.”
The students decided what to do with the garden, such as using it as a place for outdoor lunches. The garden will have a large tree in the middle, and there will be a rock garden between a sidewalk and the existing wall. “The kids who are currently enrolled here will paint a friendship rock, and then they’ll have it in rock garden there,” Nisbett said.
The Friendship Sign, which bears words from Vail that encourage people to be kind to others, will be posted on a wall along with two outdoor dry erase boards.
“Part of it will be set up so that teachers can take classes out there, and they can have instruction,” Nisbett said.
The dry erase boards, benches and tables can be used for class work. “We put it outside the cafeteria also because the cafeteria has the big windows so the kids could have their lunches out there out,” Nisbett said. “Multi-purpose, multi-uses and across all the grade levels – it’s something the third-graders could use and the sixth-graders, too.”
The school started fundraising for it on Giving Tuesday, and the school set up a PledgeCents link, an online donor site. That Tuesday, the school raised $2,930, and the site is still active. The school has a goal of $20,000 to build the garden.
“Parts of it can be built without everything … existing but we can add to it as we go,” Nisbett said.
The initial phase has benches and picnic tables, and shade areas can be added later.
Drew Juarez and Emma Anderson, sixth-graders and honor council members, said they hope students enjoy the time outside for studying and being able to eat lunch.
They said the tree and outdoor setting were emblematic because Vail’s favorite color was green. They have not decided what kind of tree will be planted in the garden. “And every year we wanted to put a stone around that tree,” Juarez said. “To represent how many years this has gone,” Anderson interjected, “so when we get this done, then we’ll be the first ones to put our stones there.”
Chance saw the design and had input into what it would like, explaining that it would be a classroom setting and lunch venue with a donated tree and the Friendship Sign posted on a wall.
“We’re really excited about it,” she said about the design.
Chance thinks the fundraising goal will be met, and she’s excited to see the project get off the ground.
Anyone wanting to donate to Vail’s Garden may go to tinyurl.com/vailsgarden.