June 4, 2009

Student-built gardens take shape at Walden III

Once it was Franklin Street, running through the plot of land now occupied by Walden III School. Then it was a city tennis court adjacent to the Civil War-era school building. Today, it was transformed into an outdoor classroom, meditation space and rain garden.

Scores of students, wielding shovels, rakes and other garden implements, planted dozens of plants, bushes and trees (bought wholesale from Cassity's Tree Service), and moved tons of boulders (with the help of a front-end loader from Kat Construction. The kids -- Walden sixth through 12th graders -- worked under the watchful eyes of the students who planned the garden over the past two years.

Becky Wadleigh, with shovel, helps direct boulder placement

Becky Wadleigh, 17, a Walden junior, was one of the original planners. She remembered the idea's genesis at a Green School committee meeting two years ago. "There were just five students, and we decided we wanted an outdoor classroom." That evolved into the present meditation garden, rain garden and outdoor classroom. "We don't have the greenest building," she admitted, so the environmentally friendly components help correct that.

"We're a science-based school," she said -- adding that science is her favorite subject -- "and we wanted a place we could study native plants, read poetry outdoors."

Wadleigh recalled some of the "hoops" and "roadblocks" the students had to go through to get to yesterday's earth and rock-moving, and tree-planting: Getting the city Parks and Recreation Dept. to give up the tennis court, then the discovery of the street below it, and gave credit to Alderman Jeff Coe, who hovered nearby like an expectant father as the garden took place, for helping them through the bureaucracy. The three-part garden was designed by a class at Gateway Technical College, and assisted by a grant from the Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network for a 300-sq. ft. rain garden; the students purchased enough plants to double that in size. No taxpayer funds were used.

The hardest part, Wadleigh said, while directing the placement of boulders that would become benches for the outdoor classroom, was deciding what plants were wanted for gardens: "Everyone has his own favorites."

The gardens are adjacent to the Parks and Rec storage building that students decorated two weeks ago with wall-sized mosaic murals.


  1. Great job kids!
    Go WALDEN!!

    Note just so everyone knows
    I understand the The Head of City Development does not like Community Gardening or at the very least Community Gardening in the Inner- City.
    Seams to be a big fan of low income housing projects

  2. Hows you spellin' gardin?6/05/2009 8:03 AM

    I feel much better about the lower RUSD reading/mathematics scores now. We have a garden.

  3. then clearly you've never seen the kind of people who come out of Walden. They're not your run-of-the-mill RUSD kids.

  4. Walden students and staff rock. They pushed through all the BS at city hall. Not an easy feat. RUSD needs to implement more of what is happening at Walden into the other schools. It can be done. Give the gang members back to the police and have peaceful schools with kids their who want to learn.

  5. Right on. THe kids and Staff at Walden Rock!
    Expect to hear great things from Park too, they are bring it.
    This whole Racine Urban Gardening Network that Sarah Wright (Bones) and others have started simply rock out.
    In my 15 years in Racine for the first time I see hope. God in His Glory bless these kids and what they and others are doing.

  6. Congratulations Walden students and staff. I applaud you hard work! You are really making a difference