The Edmond Sun

May 11, 2013

School’s butterfly garden flourishes

Students of all ages learn from working in flowers

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Retired special education teacher Cheryl Coffelt-Kern planted the first trees in Washington Irving Elementary’s Butterfly Garden, and although she has left her indoor classroom, she is still teaching in the outdoor classroom she started 16 years ago.

Wednesday she was outdoors with the members of Watching Outdoor Wonders (WOW) club, an organization for fifth-grade students who excel in their classrooms as well as take on leadership roles within the school.

Two of the club members, Meg Jackson and Alec Lamb, were chosen Masonic Students of the Year for 2012-13.

The fifth-grade club members were helping the younger students as they planted flowers throughout the hour.

“We lost our willow tree that provided lots of shaded areas in our flower beds in the drought last summer,” Coffelt-Kern said, “so our shade plants, impatiens, are being replaced with periwinkles, flowers that like sunshine.”

Early Childhood Developmentally Delayed students were the first ones to come outdoors and help. Some of the students took their shoes off and dug their toes in the dirt as they planted with the help of their teachers and the fifth graders. Developmentally delayed students were working on sensory skills while in the flower gardens and helping with the planting of flowers, said Robin Miller, Early Childhood teacher.

“Our students work on skills including sight and sound and motor skills with the help of their fifth-grade friends,” Miller said. “They love to come to the garden and interact with the fifth graders.”

Miller said the children had planted purple cone flowers earlier in their classroom. They will be potting the sprouts and taking them home for their moms for Mother’s Day.

“Purple cone flowers are perennials, so after they are transplanted outdoors and come back each year their momma will look at the flowers and be reminded how much their children love them,” Miller said.

Members of the WOW club meet after school each Wednesday and work until 4:15 p.m. and meet early in the morning during the summer to keep the gardens weeded and watered.

Fifth-grader Andrew Finley said, “I am proudly the head weed puller. I am the strongest one on the team.”

Students paint rocks and sell them during the year as one of their fundraisers to help raise money for their program.

One of the fifth graders pointed out some of the stepping stones the students had painted a few years ago were broken.

Coffelt-Kern replied, “Every year we have something new to do in the garden.” Even though she is retired, she added, “I will be here helping; I just cannot stop.”