The Edmond Sun

Local News

July 28, 2012

Football players trade gridiron for garden

Special needs students receive raised gardens

Four Edmond Memorial Bulldogs traded their footballs for shovels and hammers as they worked to start a program for the special needs children of the school.

The project came out of a Special Education teacher wanting her students to become more involved with the general population in the building including the teachers and the students.

“When I spoke with one of my teachers she was thinking about a drink service where the students could bring a teacher a glass of water in the morning,” said Debbie Bendick, Memorial High School principal.

The idea was that the special needs students would be able to meet and get to know teachers outside of their classroom.

“I have no idea why the project came to mind for the students to take care of a garden,” Bendick said, “but one of our assistant principals, Justin Coffelt, is a gentleman farmer, and he brings tomatoes each day and shares them with the staff.”

After asking the teacher what she thought about a garden project and getting her approval Bendick approached the assistant principal.

“Justin took it from there,” Bendick said. “All I did was think out loud. He completely implemented the project.”

After talking with Coffelt for a few minutes Bendick said by the next week he already had volunteer businesses and members of the football team to put the plan into action.

“We are building three above-ground beds this year,” Coffelt said, “and we plan to have them ready for the students when they come back to school.”

Plans are to build three additional beds next summer. When finished the beds will be in the shape of a giant “E” on the west side of the school.

Lumber was donated by Lowe’s, dirt donated by Minick Materials and the plants will be furnished by TLC on Memorial Road.

As the son of the owner of the former Gerdes nurseries, senior Lucas Gerdes is heading up the team of football players.

“I have built a few of these with my dad,” Gerdes said.

Also helping bring a small community within the school to become part of the larger community are senior Dillon Perry, junior Mason Hall and sophomore Jason Hand.

“Our goal is to get the special education students more involved in the school and help them get to know more of the student population,” Coffelt said.

“Our plan is to partner them with other students like the members of the football team. That way they will know the players on a personal level and will go to football games and cheer for them.”

Coffelt said plans this year include planting cabbages and pansies for the fall and adding a butterfly box and lady bugs at a later date.

“Our teachers in other areas will be able to use the garden for biology lessons, lessons in commerce and English assignments as they develop lesson plans around the garden areas,” Bendick said.

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