Stephens initiating bird and butterfly garden at Inman

A special improvement project featuring birds and butterflies is taking shape at Inman Elementary School in Red Oak.

The project is spearheaded by 25-year-veteran instructor Jacque Stephens, who has been teaching in Red Oak the past five years.

Stephens said the project took off after she applied for, and was granted, a $250 teacher supplement grant for Agriculture in the Classroom, funded by the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation and the Iowa Farm Bureau.

“I submitted details about my project, titled “Butterfly and Bird Garden,” and it was selected. It was felt my project captured what the two organizations believe in, that by investing in our youth, we are investing in the future of Iowa,” said Stephens. “I wanted a butterfly and bird garden for my art students to use as a classroom to beautify the environment as well as use it for drawing and painting outdoors.”

In addition to her own classroom students, Stephens said she is hopeful the space will be used by all the students in the building.

“My project isn’t limited to art classes. I hope to see science, social studies, language arts, and anyone else who wishes, to utilize the garden for various activities and learning. Collaboration with other educators will provide across the curriculum units to utilize the space in a variety of ways,” Stephens commented.

After her grant approval, Stephens was sent a letter sharing the thoughts of the review committee. They felt a partnership with other teachers sounded like a great way to make the project happen. While the grant helped move the project along, Stephens said COVID-19 definitely impacted the progress.

“While it put a damper on things, with the support of Inman principal Dr. Jane Chaillie and superintendent Ron Lorenz, we were able to put the project in motion. It takes many people to get a project of this scope in order. I am thankful for our maintenance team of Adam Wenberg and Chris Vannausdle. They helped me, and are continuing to help me, keep up with watering, mulching, etc. The flowers were donated by Mark Johnson, of Red Oak Greenhouse. The space was tilled, and other support, such as bird houses and fruit trees were provided by Steve Haley, of Haley Electric. It has been fantastic to have community sponsors,” Stephens explained.

In addition to the community support and donations, Stephens said her students were instrumental in the construction of the space. Students helped plant the flowers and are also in charge of maintaining the space. The garden is located at the front of the school, near the office windows. Stephens said she’s excited for the next school year, so she can look at ways to incorporate the space during the school day.

“I am looking forward to spending time outdoors this fall and trying some painting, drawing and photography with my elementary artists. Also, work will continue on the space over the summer. I am still in the process of purchasing materials to make the garden a successful addition to our Inman building,” Stephens said.

Stephens said the $250 grant she received was instrumental in making the project come to fruition.

“Grants such as these are very important because they provide additional funding for a big project that will have an impact for many years to come for students. It was an area that I felt would enhance my program, school, and provide the kids with an excellent learning opportunity.”

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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