How does their garden grow?

Western Heights students spruce up old greenhouse

Western Heights students spruce up old greenhouse

May 26, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

Other than a cactus that slouched in the corner, the greenhouse at Western Heights Middle School had for years lacked any sign of life.

"It looked really bad," said eighth-grader Morgan McCoy, 13. "The whole thing was gray."

That is until two months ago, when Morgan and nine of her schoolmates decided to do something about it.

The handful of seventh- and eighth-grade students at Western Heights transformed what amounted to a glass-encased storage space into a thriving plant conservatory. They planted about 20 different plants, including roses, jalapenos and lavender.

The students said the end-of-year project has inspired them to further beautify their school. The eighth-graders said they want to touch up a weed-riddled planter that sits behind the school as a going-away gift from the class.

All of this, they hope, will boost school pride and improve their school's reputation.

"A lot of kids at other schools think it's bad here," said eighth-grader Carlisha Smith, 14. "By doing this, we can show that we really do care about our school."


Eighth-graders at Western Heights scored the lowest in the county on the reading portion of Maryland's mandatory state test, with more than a third of them scoring below proficiency level, according to state data.

The Washington County Board of Education plans to restructure the school - a move that helped boost test scores at Eastern and Bester elementary schools. As a result of the restructuring, all of the teachers at Western Heights will have to reapply for their jobs.

"I'm not sure if I'm going to be here next year, but we'll leave all the pots behind for the next teacher," science teacher Patty Leazier said. "But if I'm here next year, we're going to grow more."

This year, four classes have used the room with the adjacent greenhouse, but none had taken any interest in it, Leazier said.

"It was a total mess," Carlisha said. "There was leaves and dirt everywhere. It stunk, too."

Leazier, who started at the school as a physics teacher in January, generated some interest when she brought in some leftover flowers she received at a teacher recognition event in March.

"When you think of a greenhouse, you think of science, you think of something pretty," said Krystal Kennedy, 14, a eighth-grader.

That's when the nine students - seven eighth-graders and two seventh-graders - decided to spruce up the greenhouse during their spare time.

They got several plants and other materials donated from local businesses, Leazier said. They swept out the debris and wiped down the shelves. Even the cactus in the corner started to bloom.

"It's a good way to represent our school," said eighth-grader Molly Warner, 14.

The students said they hope their younger classmates will keep up the tradition.

"They know students took the time and the effort to do it, they'll think, 'Why would you mess it up?'" Carlisha said. "And if they do, then that's just mean."

Or as Janelle Hurley, 14, puts it: "I know I don't want to come down here next year and see it looking like it was."

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