Wander into the courtyard of McGary Middle School on a fall or spring Wednesday afternoon and you will see kids running through sprinklers, pulling weeds, loading wheelbarrows, and picking vegetables from various garden beds.
The students are part of McGary’s Garden Club founded and run by Soozi Scheller, an inclusion English, resource, and special education teacher for sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.
Scheller began the club in 2012, which was awarded the City Beautiful Award by Keep Evansville Beautiful that same year.
“It was incredible the impact that [award] had on them,” says Scheller. “It was sheer joy.”
The garden gives students the opportunity to develop new skills and learn about growing plants, vegetables, flowers, and herbs.
Sharon Berry, a sixth-grade member, says she’s learned different plants need different amounts of water and sunlight. Another sixth-grader, Olivia Crawford, says she’s learned about plant diseases and how to keep trees trimmed. Annabella Flesch, a sixth-grade member, holds the record for pulling the longest morning glory weed at 12.5 feet.
“It’s a good experience. It’s a chance to get to know new people,” says Nicholas Gudorf, a sixth-grader. “You grow your own food and get your own bounty. It’s a good feeling.”
The club is open to all students and is supported by volunteer help and supplies from Bethel Community Church and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s Watch Us Sprout program throughout the year.
“They say things in the garden they won’t say in the building,” says Scheller. “There’s something about the garden that’s freeing to be yourself and say what’s on your mind.”
For more information on McGary Middle School, call 812-476-3035 or visit mcgary.evscschools.com.