CPBA greeting garden engages community, provides students a classroom without walls

To give the community a greater sense of what takes place inside Champlin Brooklyn Park Academy for Math and Environmental Sciences (CBPA), the school has added a greeting garden.

"CBPA has an outdoor amphitheater, a large green house and raised garden beds for each grade level but all of these things are located in the courtyard that is hidden in the center of the school," said Andrea Kroening, a CPBA who worked on the project. "The public is unable to see these aspects of our school. We wanted the community and new /potential CBPA families to understand the amazing things that go on inside of our school just by walking up to the door. With the garden outside of our most used public door, everyone who walks in will have a better understanding of what goes on inside of our school."

Kroening, who lives in Brooklyn Park and open enrolls four children at CBPA because her family likes the extra science curriculum promoted at the school, got involved with the project after speaking with Principal Marilyn McKeehen about the former landscaping.

"We tried to clean and weed the junipers before the initial opening of CBPA," Kroening said. "Mrs. McKeehen told me that I could do something about it if I wanted to. I never thought that it would turn into a project of this scope."

Kroening received grants from the City of Champlin Environmental Resources Commission and donations from the Champlin Garden Club and Yellow Brick Road Landscapers (who donated equipment and several volunteer hours). Because the school participates in a source-separated organics recycling program, the Hennepin County Department of Environmental Services donated a 15-yard load of compost.

"Our school sends its organic materials from the lunch rooms to be made into compost," Kroening said. "The children got to see their lunches come full circle and be part of our new garden."

Work began on the greeting garden May 19. The beds were cut into the sod, edging was placed and landscape boulders were placed. On May 20 families were encouraged to help plant in the prepared beds. Perennials, shrubs and few annuals were planted on this day and river rock was placed along with sod that had been taken out the day before. Champlin Park High School (CPHS) students also helped with planting. The project will continue into June with more garden prep, planting, boulder placement and edging and river rock placement.

Keeping the garden going will be a community effort. Kroening said CPHS students and their instructor, Dan Foss, will be an integral part of the upkeep and maintenance as well as CPBA student groups, family and community volunteers, and the Champlin Garden Club.

Through the greeting garden, Kroening hopes students will learn about the 44 different species of plants in a hands-on manner. (Students will start many of the plants for the garden in the school’s greenhouse.) The16 different types of geological boulders will also offer students a hands-on learning experience for geology units.

"That is what this garden is all about – hands-on learning," Kroening said. "We want our students to understand that not all classrooms have walls. This garden will be an outdoor classroom for many students.

"CBPA is different from the other school in our school district. There is a distinct science and math curriculum that has been embraced by the staff and students here."

Phase four of the garden will take place in the fall. The concrete walkway will change to pavers. The school will sell pavers to be engraved with student/family names and the year of purchase. Proceeds from paver sales will go directly to the upkeep of the garden and pay for phase five of the garden, an intricate paver project that will bring the CPBA logo to life through colored stones and bricks.