by Catherine Feldman
The Audrey Stout Learning Garden at Shaker Heights High School is a hidden delight that we were fortunate to discover. Until 2012 the central courtyard of the school was entirely lawn, unused and ignored. Over the past four years students and staff have worked hard to create unique gardens there.
Students started with a few raised beds, but soon had wishes to cultivate a larger garden. Landscape architect, Jim McKnight, was called upon. After meeting with students to determine their needs and vision, he designed a formal hardscape within which the students’ burgeoning creativity could grow. The beautiful formal hardscape allows for different foci in different areas of the Garden.
Individual beds are devoted to plantings of African, Asian, European, and American origin, as well as customary modern vegetable farming: in total the Garden reflects the diverse population of the school.
Other features include espaliered apple trees along one face of the courtyard,
potato-buckets planted by the various elementary schools,
All gardens are a work in progress, but this one is especially so. Since it is a student project, it will always reflect the changing interests of the current population and programming. So far, the high school’s International Baccalaureate program, the Special Education program, Science, Art, Politics and Literature classes (see the Ophelia garden), capstone projects and personal projects have all left their mark upon the space. Students also have participated in the local county fair and won ribbons for garlic, potatoes, cosmos, marigold and sunflowers. In total, about 500 students have their “hands in the dirt.”
The garden has also provided improved nutrition to students. Last year the garden produced 140 pounds of fruits and vegetables that was served by the school cafeteria to students and staff!
We can thank the family of Audrey Stout , a Shaker teacher, gardener and mother, who are the benefactors behind this very special garden.
Great credit goes to Paula Damm, School Nurse, and Stacy Steggert, Special Education teacher, who have shepherded the project from its beginning. Over the past four years they have inspired teachers and students to ever greater enthusiasm and participation in the garden and they hope that this integration of the garden into the school’s curriculum will continue to increase.
You, too, may see this garden on June 19th between noon and five in the afternoon as it will be open to the public during the the 2016 Gracious Gardens of Shaker Heights tour.