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Building a Dream Garden

Digging, planting, building: Julie Schnedler’s sixth-grade students in Mediapolis, Iowa, were busy last month in their school’s outdoor classroom.

The Mediapolis Education Foundation won $5,000 for the project from Midwest Living's Dream-It Do-It Community Challenge. The money was used to buy plants, mulch, soil, tools, a weather station, wood for planters and a watering system, Julie says.

The community garden project grew out of student suggestions. "Sixth graders learned that bee populations are decreasing due to Colony Collapse Disorder, and since a large percentage of our food comes from the pollination of bees, they wanted to create a safe place for bees to collect nectar," Julie says. "Their solution was to create an outdoor classroom with plenty of diverse flowers and plants to provide a safe haven free of chemicals, which is one theory to the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder."

Teachers, parents, students and local experts worked together to design the garden, which is being built in stages as donations of materials, labor and money are secured.

Students of all ages are participating in the project. Elementary students painted art totems to add a splash of color to the outdoor space. High schoolers designed and built an A-frame structure for vining plants. A high school senior painted the tool shed doors with a Lorax theme. On the day we visited, middle schoolers were planting container gardens, installing the totems, building shelves inside the tool shed and creating borders with limestone edgers.

Midwest Living’s readers nominated dozens of projects for the Dream-It Do-It grant. The magazine’s editors chose five finalists based on clarity of vision/specificity of plan, community impact and indication of ability to complete project. The public was invited to vote in fall 2013, with the top vote-getter receiving $5,000 to carry out its project.

“The projects we saw in the nominations are perfect examples of what makes the Midwest a region we love to celebrate,” said Midwest Living’s Executive Editor Trevor Meers. “Entry after entry displayed creativity and a community spirit that we’re thrilled to support.”

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