- Marion-Franklin High School
How Marion-Franklin’s Garden Club is Making a Difference in Their Community
May 18, 2023 -- Who says gardening can't be fun? The garden club at Marion-Franklin High School is proving otherwise, giving students a chance to learn about horticulture, plant care, and the science behind plant growth -- all while giving back to the community.
Vocal Music teacher Christina Nawrocki leads the garden club and is dedicated to teaching students valuable life skills while giving back to the community by donating the plants they grow.
The school garden club grows various plants, from zinnias to peppers to watermelons. The students also build raised beds and grow spring bulbs and summer tropicals. In recent years, the Marion-Franklin Civic Association has purchased most of the annual flowers produced by the students and donated them to senior homes in the community.
“Over the past few years, the Marion-Franklin Civic Association has purchased most or all of the annual flowers grown by students,” said Nawrocki. “The association then has a community plant giveaway in early May each year. The goal of the Civic Association is to provide free flowers to people throughout the southside, particularly the elderly, to help them beautify their homes all summer.”
This year, the students grew over 50 flats of flowers for the Civic Association to donate to the community.
The club also provides opportunities for students to learn about plant care, maintenance, and the science behind plant growth. For greenhouse-related growth, students meet after school a few times per week during the school year.
“This typically happens February-May,” said Nawrocki. “During these months, the students grow their flowers and potted vegetables for the annual plant sale from seed and go through the hydroponics unit. They have learned about seed planting depth, growing mediums, temperature/ water/ light requirements, fertilizer elements, and maintaining healthy plant growth," said Nawrocki.
Nawrocki grew up in a family that relied on growing their own fresh produce due to food insecurity. She saw an opportunity to share this skill with her students.
"A large number of CCS students face the same issue of food insecurity,” said Nawrocki. “Marion-Franklin has a greenhouse and land lab that was not being used. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to teach the students at Marion-Franklin a valuable life skill.”
Christina Nawrocki sees the positive impact the club has had on her students this school year. The learning curve for these students was steep, as most members had little to no horticulture experience before joining the Garden Club.
“It's fun to watch the students find confidence in themselves as they learn a new life skill,” said Nawrocki. “Following the hydroponics unit, the students become much more aware of how insects, weather, and soil quality impact chemical usage and produce yields."
For students interested in joining the club, Nawrocki encourages them to show up after school and get involved in hands-on learning. The students who attend regularly choose what projects will be undertaken from one year to the next, as the opportunities vary based on their interests.
Marion-Franklin senior Kassady Slater shares what inspired her to join the garden club.
“I just wanted to help,” said Slater. “It was interesting and fun to see our plants grow from seedlings to healthy plants. Being able to help the community and helping others made me happy to see others happy.”
The Marion-Franklin garden club has big plans for the future. The students hope to plant fruit trees in the school's west courtyard, producing stone fruits in the fall.
“I encourage students next year to not be scared to try and learn something new,” said Slater. “You’ll still make friends while hanging out and planting!”