Sharon Dodson had a vision for a field next to Alamo School. She saw beyond the tumbleweeds and an old irrigation system there.
She saw the piece of land for its potential and knew it would be perfect for a teaching garden. So last summer the school nurse/health educator set the wheels in motion, or rather the shovels and hammers! "This piece of land was overgrown with weeds, but I contacted the school district, and they agreed to fix the old pipes on the irrigation system," said Sharon. The community rallied with kids pitching in and parents helping as well. "John Baker, of Alamo, held carpentry classes for kids in K through fifth grades, and together they built bird houses, vegetable markers and planter boxes, and several Boy Scouts and former Alamo School students have gotten involved too," said Sharon.
However, with spring a matter of months away, the completion of the garden is yet to be a reality, since more funding is needed. Sharon told me that parent Melanie Volk saw an opportunity for the school to obtain grant money, which Clorox was offering through its Power a Bright Future program. Sharon decided to submit Alamo school as a contender with the grand prize being $50,000 and six additional $25,000 prizes to the schools that reeled in the most votes.
"We thought the opportunity to win would be easy with all the community support, and then we realized the competition across the nation was stiff," added Sharon.
Another Alamo School parent, Lisa Gartland Dempster, joined forces with Sharon and Melanie. "We spent weekends at many local events and at Pete's Coffee in Alamo, requesting members of our small community to text a vote in exchange for a free cup of coffee," said Sharon who wanted to thank Justin DiMauro, a Pete's Coffee manager in Alamo, for his generous involvement. In the end, Alamo School went from 186th place at the beginning of the contest to 78th place out of 2,500 schools nationwide. Even though they didn't come away with any of the big prizes, they are waiting to see if Alamo School will have a shot at the merit award in the EXPLORE category as the "Little School that Could."
Sharon is grateful for all the support from folks voting and helping along the way, which also included Terry Koehne, San Ramon Valley Unified School District's community relations director and ABC's 7 on Your Side with Michael Finney, which, after a segment about the garden aired, helped Alamo School go from 186th to 78th place. Melanie envisions teachers getting kids outside for some outdoor education.
"We are so proud of our students and community coming together, and once the garden is completed, the teachers will be able to hold lessons in science, environment and nature outside of the four classroom walls," she said.
Her son, Eli Volk, 7, enthusiastically agrees.
"I can't wait until the garden is done and I can watch the plants grow!"
His teacher concurs.
"The students at Alamo School are very excited about the prospects of cultivating their very own school garden," said kindergarten teacher, Cathy Garrett, whose class was featured in the news segment. She is on the school Wellness Committee along with Sharon, Melanie and Lisa.
If you are interested in helping Alamo School complete its teaching garden and want to help in any way, contact Sharon at Sharon.email@example.com.
"The completion of the Alamo School Teaching Garden continues to be our goal. We welcome anyone who has a passion and talent and wants to help us complete our 'dream' garden,' " she said.
Contact Caterina Mellinger at around- firstname.lastname@example.org.