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May 25, 2011

Students team with Catoctin Mountain Park for award-winning design

Guest post by Arielle J. Patterson

They planted a garden outside the visitors’ center in Catoctin Mountain Park. But it died.

The garden suffered from poor maintenance – notably, mis-directed weeding – and it was soon overrun by invasive plants from the park.

So, fourth-grade students from Robert Moton Elementary School in Westminster, Md., spent the school year designing a new garden for the center, and this month they were named winners of the First Bloom Garden Design Contest.

First Bloom, a program under the National Park Foundation, strives to teach fourth through sixth grade students about the environment by using hands-on experience working in national parks.

The students of Robert Moton teamed with Catoctin Mountain Park and produced the winning design from among 24 school-park partnerships.

The students visited the visitors center and found that the area outside the entrance was a barren eyesore.

Before they could begin their planning, the students had to learn about nature and the land that they were dealing with. They learned that the garden had been invaded by Japanese stiltgrass. They learned how it spread and how it impacted the other plants in the area.

They met with park rangers to select plants native to the Catoctin Park region and learned techniques to plant and maintain their garden. The students chose the native plants they wanted to include in their design: American holly, New England aster and milkweed.

They placed the American holly in the back because it was larger and needed more shade, but they put the New England aster in the front because it is a medium-sized plant and would catch a visitor’s eye. They put the milkweed in the front because it attracts butterflies, which make the garden look more serene and beautiful.

Once their plan was in place they used Google Earth to find an overhead image of the visitors’ center, and then mapped out their plans. The students converted their hand drawn map into a computer graphic and place it on top of the Google Earth image.

All of the submitted garden designs were displayed on the First Bloom website for public voting from April 15 to  May 16. More than 7,300 votes were cast and of that number, 1,500 went to Robert Moton Elementary School.

The students will be taking a trip to DC, funded by the National Park Foundation and Aramark, as their reward.

Posted by Susan Reimer at 2:20 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Guest post


The park's name is spelled wrong in the headline.

Fixed it!!! --Susan

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About Susan Reimer
Susan Reimer has spent 16 years writing about raising kids - among other topics - in her column for The Baltimore Sun. And every time son Joseph or daughter Jessie passed another milestone - driver's license, college, wedding or a move to a new military duty station - she has planted another garden. Now she will be writing about those gardens - and yours - here on Garden Variety.

Susan isn't an expert gardener, but she wasn't an expert mother, either. Both - the kids and the gardens - seem to be doing well in spite of her.

She lives in Annapolis with her husband, Gary Mihoces, who loves to cut his grass but has noticed that there seems to be less of it every time the kids pass another milestone.

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