Girl Scouts excel through double garden project

WEDDINGTON – Ten local Girl Scouts recently put their green thumbs to the test in a double garden project that beautified an existing courtyard at Weddington Middle School and created a new natural area at Weddington United Methodist Church.

(Above, from left) Juliana Zimmerman, Angelica Gonzales, Darla DeMontesquiou and Jane Hohman stand next to the garden they recently built at Weddington United Methodist.

(Above, from left) Juliana Zimmerman, Angelica Gonzales, Darla DeMontesquiou and Jane Hohman stand next to the garden they recently built at Weddington United Methodist.

Rising sophomores Allie Belcher, Jane Hohman, Hailey Sanders and Sara Cramer recently reflected on the two projects, which earned the girls their Silver Award – the second-highest honor a Girl Scout can achieve. The four girls, along with fellow Scouts Juliana Zimmerman, Angelica Gonzales, Emily Robinson, Naomi Mash, Marisa Becht and Darla DeMontesquiou, are members of Girl Scout Troop 1048, which meets at Weddington UMC.

The girls said the idea to build the gardens came gradually during the brainstorming stage of the project, dating back to their seventh-grade year. They began by thinking about how they could give back to Weddington Middle School, where the majority of the girls attended.

“We wanted to do something for the (exceptional children) students,” Sara said. “We want them to fit in and feel like they’re a part of the school.”

The girls started planning in eighth grade and decided to give the garden courtyard in the center of the school a complete makeover. The group came up with an idea of how to reconstruct the area and gave a presentation to Principal Steve Wrey, who immediately jumped on board and granted his approval.

“Of course, I was in awe, so I was like, ‘Absolutely. If you want to go at it, go at it,’” Wrey said.

The girls spent the majority of their freshman year gathering materials – many donated by local businesses, as well as friends and family – and working on the garden. With the help of friends and family, the girls built raised flowerbeds, two benches from scratch and renovated a third bench. They planted flowers and perennial herbs like lavender, rosemary and mint.

One of the reasons the girls chose to build the garden was to involve students from the exceptional children classes. The flowerbeds and herbs give EC students hands-on experience observing and learning how plants grow.
The EC students also will have the opportunity to adopt the garden as their own project.

“The idea was for the EC students to take over the garden and manage (the plants),” Hailey said.

The garden was finished in May, and students from the EC classes had a chance to explore the garden before summer break. But EC students aren’t the only ones enjoying the school’s new addition, Wrey said. Language arts classes have held reading sessions by the garden, too.

“It gives students a sense of pride … it’s presentable and beautiful,” he said.

While the girls focused on the Weddington Middle School garden, they also were hard at work at Weddington United Methodist Church, where their troop has met for 10 years. Eventually, they settled on a garden senior citizens from the church could use. After receiving permission from the church, they began building the garden outside of the fellowship hall.

Because the garden focused more on flowers with “calming aromas and colors,” the layout was different, with no raised flowerbeds. Weather also presented some challenges, with heavy rains throwing some kinks into workdays. But the girls pressed on, which they credit to hard work as a team and individuals.

“We worked as a team but we also worked separately,” Jane said. “It definitely takes some talent, I think, to (work) that way.”

Now that they’ve earned their Silver Award, the girls are ready to go for the Gold.

“I’ve already been thinking about what I want to do,” Allie said. “We’ve come this far already,” so why stop now?

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