Special to The Sun
Contrary Mary’s garden may have bloomed with silver bells and cockle shells, and little maids all in a row, but at Memorial High School the school flower bed grows friendships as well as mums, cabbages and pansies.
Friday Memorial High School students with special needs worked side by side with varsity football players as they pulled weeds and looked over the raised flower beds built especially for them.
Angie Holmberg with the Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City Horticulture Department was on hand to see what the students had accomplished.
“I am hoping to be able to help the school by getting volunteers from the Horticulture Department to come and work with the students,” Holmberg said.
In July of 2012 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.
When a special education teacher said she wanted her students to become more interactive with the school’s general population, including the teachers and students, she had no idea that raised flower beds would be the answer, she said Friday.
“The socialization skills the students have learned and the camaraderie that has been fostered has been huge,” said Memorial special education teacher Kiley Smith.
Principal Debbie Bendick shared her idea of some kind of a garden with the teacher and Assistant Principal Justin Coffelt (the school’s resident gentleman farmer) and he took the idea and implemented it.
Coffelt and four football players made three raised gardens and readied them for the students to be able to use.
Lumber was donated by Lowe’s, dirt donated by Minick Materials and the plants will be furnished by TLC on Memorial Road.
Helping bring a small community within the school into the larger community last July were seniors Lucas Gerdes and Dillon Perry, junior Mason Hall and sophomore Jason Hand.
Friday Jason was joined by sophomore Warren Wand as they visited with the special needs students about their favorite plants and helped pull weeds.
The students planted cabbages, pansies and mums for the fall, and Coffelt said they are planning to add a butterfly box and ladybugs at a later date.
“Our goal was to get the special education students more involved in the school and help them get to know more of the student population,” Coffelt said. Part of the plan included helping the students get to know members of the football team and go to the games and cheer for the players with whom they have become friends.
Special needs senior Jonathan Williams said he and his girlfriend and his parents went to football games and he got to yell for the players.
“I have liked getting to know the football guys,” Jonathan said.
As the community the students are part of grows, the addition of the OSU-OKC volunteers will help their world become a little larger.
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