The Placemade Diaries: SSS Elementary School Garden

One of Placemade‘s pilot projects is to renew the garden of SSS Elementary School, as led by its students.

This urban diary shows photos and notes some observations that I had last Aug. 16, 2018, when I made the visit.

Location

The garden is located within the SSS Elementary School Grounds.

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SSS Elementary school is bounded by Lilac, Rainbow, Sandalwood, and Sapphire streets. Its surroundings are composed of a church, residential houses, and commercial shops.

 

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The garden inside the school is located on the area with the yellow polygon (approximated).

It’s worth noting how the school was under renovation during my observation visit. Upon talking to the guard on duty, he said that while many of the school’s buildings and surroundings will be demolished / renovated, the administration has directed that the garden be preserved.

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This is how part of the campus looks like, with open spaces between buildings.

 

The Garden

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The garden already has trees, shrubs, and grasses in it, some of which have been efforts of planting projects. 

 

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However, most plants seem to be unkempt, and not labeled or arranged, and generally the garden doesn’t seem to be curated or based on a concept yet. Recycled paint buckets and plastic containers are used as pots.

 

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The garden is enclosed by a small fence.

 

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There is also a mini-pond with a bridge inside the enclosure. Some fallen branches were used to rope off the railings.

 

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There are pathways made of tiles, and one leads to a small nipa hut. The pathways are rather disconnected.

 

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There are efforts to arrange the garden, as seen in this big elevated pot, which holds a variety of flora, but trash buckets and containers litter its surroundings. 

 

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A more worrisome part of the garden is how dirty water and fallen leaves and twigs litter the pond, making it a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which is a health hazard, especially in an elementary school.

 

Observations

Aside from the notes on the photos above, observations and some top-of-the-head suggestions would include:

  • The garden could be better conceptualized and curated. Some of the garden types which could work include: Medicinal, edible, pollinator, or native.
  • The enclosure may have been used to prevent schoolchildren to keep going into the garden, which may defeat the purpose of having such a space, because interaction within green spaces can help increase their appreciation to care for nature and be at ease in a natural environment within a very concrete-filled school.
  • The nipa hut is a touch to the garden for a children to hang out in, but doesn’t seem very welcoming because of its surroundings.
  • There is only one chair on the garden, which isn’t really comfortable to use when children have to plant seedlings or care for the garden (mini stools would be better).
  • Grass patches are mixed with weeds, which may affect the growth of other plants.
  • The pathway could be better designed around the garden, and crossing with the pond.
  • There weren’t any on-hand gardening tools, cleaning tools, outdoor furniture or tool storage areas, compost pots or boxes, or proper signage and labels within the garden. All of these could help in getting children to keep the space maintained during class time.
  • Given that the garden is inside a school, more color would brighten up the space, especially with the pathways and pond railings.

 

Next Steps

Moving forward from the observation stage would be working with the school administration, faculty, and students (and their families/nearby community) to work on the concept of what type of garden this could be transformed into, recreating the garden, and drawing up a plan on how to maintain this through the school years.

(End of diary entry.)

 

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