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Burbank Garden Classroom completed and opening soon

Garden Classroom

Collaboration key to ambitious landscape project
- May 26, 2015 

Garden Opening Celebration: Friday June 5 at 3pm
Mary Lee Burbank Elementary School, Belmont, MA 

The Burbank school has gained a beautifully landscaped curriculum-related garden, thanks to a remarkable collaborative effort. Burbank’s Garden Classroom will be formally opened and celebrated on June 5. 

Construction of the began on April 25 with site excavation by local landscapers Brendan and Steve Kelly, who were glad to support their old school when asked by another Burbank alum, Walker Thomas, now a sophomore at Belmont High School.  Thomas, a member of Belmont Troop 66, took on development of the Burbank garden as his Eagle Scout project. Working in close collaboration with the Burbank PTA since the fall and playing a leading role throughout, Thomas oversaw the clearing and preparation of the site ready for installation of the garden to begin.  

Once the site was prepared, students from Minuteman High School in Lexington came to Burbank every day for two weeks to construct the Garden Classroom. On May 13, they proudly completed – on schedule - installation of the garden’s hardscape and main features.

Enrolled in Minuteman’s Horticulture and Landscape Program, the students spend much of their spring semester gaining practical experience. Burbank’s Garden Classroom is one of their largest projects to date, involving a full installation from ground up following design specifications and on-site adjustments. 

Minuteman instructors Sarah Ard and Peter Kelleher directed the students’ work together with landscape architect Michael White and the Burbank PTA committee overseeing the project. Minuteman Assistant Principal George Clement describes the Garden Classroom project as "an outstanding learning experience for all the students,” who “relish the idea of making a difference in the community.”

The collaborative efforts of many have transformed an underused strip alongside Burbank’s building into an attractive and engaging garden. The new Garden Classroom is designed for hands-on learning aligned with specific curriculum requirements at each grade level.  Designed by Belmont landscape architect Elizabeth Gourley with input from Burbank teachers and students, the garden features a butterfly garden, a playful fairy ring, a Colonial herb garden, a Wetu wigwam, and a weather station.

Burbank students planting GardenBurbank teachers and students will use the Garden Classroom as inspiration for hands-on learning and enrichment. Kindergarten students are already growing “magic” beanstalks for their study of fairy tales, and third graders have planted a selection of herbs used in Colonial times. Principal Tricia Clifford believes “the core values at Burbank will come alive in the garden, where students can participate in activities that promote love of learning, respect, and well being.” 

The partnership with Minuteman has been key to accomplishing what has been a year-long project. “We had an empty space, a vision of an inspiring learning garden, and a beautiful design we fell in love with. Then came the challenge of actually building it on a small budget. We inquired at Minuteman and felt we’d hit the jackpot!” explains PTA Co-president Laurie Bufano. 

Minuteman Instructor Sarah Ard is “so glad we were able to be a part of the project. It's great to know that young children will be able to experience hands on learning outside! It will absolutely foster a love for nature and the importance of taking care of the land.” Burbank and Minuteman are looking forward to a continued partnership to maintain the garden’s landscape and engage students in collaborative learning projects. 

Other partnerships have also proved essential to the Garden Classroom’s completion. Michael White, owner of Continuum Landscape Architects has generously provided expert advice throughout the technical process of getting from design to installation. White was amazed that Minuteman could begin and complete the project so quickly, and has enjoyed sharing his expertise with the students. 

The support of school and town departments has also helped Walker Thomas and the PTA to accomplish the garden installation this spring. Belmont Public Schools facilities and maintenance staff provided guidance during project planning and assistance with site logistics and safety, delivery and storage of materials, and improved access to water for the garden. The Belmont Department of Public Works has also helped with transportation of materials and equipment. 

Garden ClassroomBurbank's Garden Classroom project is co-sponsored by the Foundation for Belmont Education. The Foundation’s support combined with donations from several local landscape companies enabled the PTA to acquire the hardscape materials. Burbank families and alumni have gifted most of the plants for the new garden through an online “plant registry” at www.burbankgarden.org . General donations towards additional plants and future maintenance of the garden are welcome and appreciated.

Burbank families, alumni and student volunteers gathered on Saturday, May 16, to “Plant Something!” in Burbank’s newly installed Garden Classroom.  The event coincided with MA Plant Something Day and was supported by Mahoney’s Garden Centers. Walker Thomas managed the team of volunteers who planted shrubs and perennials, then watered and mulched until dusk, with spectacular results.  

At 3pm on Friday, June 5 there will be a Garden Opening Celebration, with ribbon cutting and activities for families in the new Garden Classroom and in Burbank’s organic vegetable garden, also established this year with co-sponsorship from Mass Agriculture in the Classroom. Project supporters and community members are welcome to join the celebration on June 5!

The Burbank PTA acknowledges the generous contributions of many to the Garden Classroom project, including:

  • The Foundation for Belmont Education,
  • Minuteman High School,
  • Michael White, Continuum Landscape Architects,
  • Liz Gourley, Elizabeth Gourley Design,
  • Kelly Brothers Landscaping Co.,
  • Walker Thomas, Burbank alumnus and Eagle Scout candidate
  • Boy Scouts of Belmont Troop 66,
  • Mahoney's Garden Centers,
  • Martignetti Enterprises,
  • Wagon Wheel Nursery,
  • ML Fence Company
  • Belmont Department Public Works,
  • Belmont Public Schools Facilities Department.

As well as Burbank School Principal, Dr. Clifford, the teachers and staff, the Burbank PTA Landscape Committee, and Burbank students and their families. 

Submitted by: Harriet Wong , Burbank PTA Co-President, hiwong@post.harvard.edu

GardenClassroom-2015.JPG  GardenClassroom-2015_Trellis.JPG  3grplantherbsinGC.JPG