Members of Great Works Garden Club each read a piece of writing to the whole school during the ribbon cutting of the Reading Garden in South Berwick on Monday afternoon. Deb Cramemail@example.com
By Crystal A. Weyers firstname.lastname@example.org June 10, 2014 2:00 AM SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — The students at Marshwood Great Works School all agree their newly dedicated reading garden “rocks.” Although titled a reading garden, the outdoor space composed of severallarge granite rocks is more than just a place to read. The students have been involved with the project since its inception, learning about each plant that was selected and where it would thrive. “We got to learn about all the plants and rocks, and where they would go,” said fourth-grader Reese Rousseau, 9. “It was really fun putting it all together.” Conor Carey, 10, also a fourth-grader, said he loves being able to read outdoors while lying on the rocks. “It’s a great thing that our school has,” he said. Fourth-graders Erica Hamlin, 10, and Amara Boisvert, 9, agreed the garden is “amazing” and “beautiful.” In addition to reading, Amara said classes have gone outside to sketch and write free-verse poetry. For school librarian Cindy Moloney, the project has been a long time coming. “It’s finally here,” she said of the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday. “There were so many people involved, too many to name.” It was during the winter of 2012 when Moloney shared her dream of turning the unused space in front of the school into a reading area or outdoor classroom where teachers could bring their students for library, art, music, science, math and other classroom activities. Art teacher Rhonda Mann and Educational Technician Lisa O’Brien were quick to join in her quest to get students outside and into nature as much as possible. Six months of writing grants, seeking donations and holding fund-raisers started to give the idea a life of its own, and its foundation was laid last summer to be ready in time for the new school year. Generous donations of time, funds and resources came in from across the community to complete the project over the last several months. In addition to donations of plants, trees and flowers from local landscaping companies, the Raitts, of A.W. Raitt Stoneyard in Eliot, donated the stonework while Kennebunk Savings and the South Berwick-Eliot and District 7780 Rotary provided grants. “Studies show that nature awakens the senses and reduces stress,” students of the school’s Garden Club read aloud, adding that the project has taught them to believe in their dreams. “With hard work, dedication and support from others, you can make it happen.” Carie Raitt said they really enjoyed working on the project because it was something different and they “like different.” Fifth-grader Ned Whitesell, 10, said he doesn’t remember the school without the space and he tries to spend “as much time as possible” enjoying it. Ned recognized that “a lot of people put a lot of work into it,” and he shared his gratitude in a poem he wrote for the dedication. “The shady nooks — for reading books — and the sunny stretches — of the rocky garden — where fantasies in written words come alive — and the worlds of those stories — collide — with the force to send their — repercussions — bouncing through the garden — and surmounting — in the wonderful imagery — of the — garden — of —rocks,” he wrote. After other fourth- and fifth-grade students read aloud poems, chorus members sang songs and gifts were presented to those who made the dream of the project a reality, students Maddy Lindgren and Emma Tice unveiled another addition to the school community: a little free library. Built and designed by parent Shane Chick, the little house will be filled with books to be shared with the greater community. “How cool is that?” Emma asked. Temporarily posted on the “alligator rock” in the reading garden, Moloney said they haven’t yet decided where the little free library’s permanent home will be. The project was made possible by a grant sought by literacy specialist Jen Bogard last year from the Marshwood Education Foundation. To learn more about the worldwide Little Free Library project, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org.