- Lex Nelson
- School Garden Coordinator Amy Pence-Brown (left) and Principal James Bright (right) of Hawthorne Elementary School celebrate the opening of the new learning garden.
The effort was largely spearheaded by parent and School Garden Coordinator Amy Pence-Brown, a Junior Master Gardener group leader who is also a well-known body image activist and writer. Standing at the center of her half-acre creation, surrounded by sage brush, stone-lined gravel paths and low-growing dessert flowers, Pence-Brown was very much in her element.
“I love outdoor education,” she said. “I’m passionate about getting kids outside and getting
their hands in the dirt. [With the Native Plants Garden] we’re teaching them to be stewards of the world—not only their own backyards but also the Idaho landscape as a whole.”
Pence-Brown has led the Garden Advisory Team at Hawthorne—a group that includes Hawthorne School Principal James Bright, five parents, three teachers and a handful of students—for the last three years. Although inspired by the environmental lessons kids were learning in the classroom (students at Hawthorne have studied worm composting and even created a miniature trout hatchery), Pence-Brown said she "didn’t know what [she] was doing” when she first proposed tearing out a swath of grass for the garden projects. It was the right partnerships, nearly a dozen grant and funding sources and hours of education and training that made the transformation possible.
- Lex Nelson
- The Fibonacci spiral sculpture, which will soon be planted with dwarf sunflowers.
“Amy poured her heart and soul into this vision,” said Principal Bright, speaking to a crowd of roughly 50 parents and students gathered in and around the small sandstone amphitheater that forms the heart of the garden space. “And that blueprint, now we have it in front of our eyes. It has come to life.”
Pence-Brown, however, doesn’t think the project is finished yet.
“I don’t think gardens are ever done,” she said, smiling as she looked around at the slice of foothills she helped to create. “We’ll be working on this forever.”