School boosts agriculture teaching with master gardeners

A new garden at a Greenwood elementary school will help students learn about plants and the environment, with the assistance of several Johnson County master gardeners.

About 100 plants, including a trio of trees, several dozen shrubs and many perennial flowers, were recently planted outside the library at Southwest Elementary School in Greenwood. The garden was planted earlier this month as part of a joint project between the school and the parent teacher organization.

And now, several master gardeners will be assisting teachers in using the garden to help students learn about the role bugs play in agriculture.

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When the elementary school was expanded several years ago, the property where the gardens sits ended up as unused space, said Beth Boyce, the president of the Southwest Elementary School parent teacher organization.

Boyce was approached earlier this year by one of the teachers at the school, Steve Corbin, who proposed an idea for a garden to fill the previously unused space, Boyce said. The garden was funded with a combination of $1,500 from the PTO, along with donations from local community members and businesses. The school will be responsible for maintaining the garden going forward, she said.

The garden has benches and a gravel path, allowing students to walk alongside the plants. The goal is to add tags next to each of the plants, so that students can easily learn what they are, Boyce said. The plants include hostas, hydrangeas and peonies, which are Indiana’s state flower. For now, they’ve decide not to plant any edible vegetables.

“We will be looking to the school to incorporate this as lesson for some kids to learn the different things that go into gardening and horticulture,” Boyce said.

What those lessons will look like hasn’t been determined yet, but the school is now working with two local master gardeners who have offered to help assist teachers in their lessons.

David Fishel and his wife, Pamela, both graduated this spring from the master gardener program, which requires volunteer work to maintain the certification. They heard about the garden being started at the school and figured it would be an excellent opportunity to get involved with the community.

“We wanted to get back out and start helping the community,” David Fishel said. “We saw this as an opportunity to help others and learn about the environment.”

The focus of the school’s garden is on pollinator plants, which will attract bees and butterflies, he said.

“A multitude of the plants they have put in are pollinator friendly and will attract butterflies and bees,” Fishel said.

Because of the declining bee population across the U.S., which poses a threat to farmers reliant on the bugs for pollinating their crops, teaching students about the important role bugs play in the agriculture process is essential, Fishel said.

“We are having a hard time in Indiana due to pesticides and other chemicals that are causing a decline in our pollination colonies,” he said. “Butterflies are also affected. If we lose pollinators, we are in serious trouble.”

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Teachers, parents and students added about 100 plants to the new garden at Southwest Elementary School in Greenwood. Here’s a list of the plants, many of which were chosen because they are helpful to essential pollinators such as bees and butterflies:

Agastache Blue Fountain “Anise Hysssop”

Ajuga “Bugleweed”

Aquilegia Canadensia “Columbine”

Astilbe “False Goat’s Beard”

Asclepias Verticillata “Whorled Milkweed”

Bayberry “Wax Myrtle”

Bleeding Heart

Blue Halcyon Hostas


Broadleaf Hydrangea


G E Hostas

Honey Locust

Lamb’s Ear

Liatris “Blazing Star”

Monardo Jacob Cline “Bee Balm”

Peony “Indiana State Flower”

Redbud Tree


Sedum “Graveyard Moss”

Silver Maple

Solidago Fireworks “Goldenrod”

Vining Hydrangeas