River Valley Teacher Rallies the Community to Build a School Garden

Sonya Raymond wants to create a nature wonderland for District 113A students. But she needs the community's help.

River Valley fourth grade teacher Sonya Raymond is breathless as she describes the garden she pictures for students.

Illinois native plants sprawl across a prairie-like space between Oakwood and River Valley schools; vegetables flourish in a nearby elevated plant bed. Students lounge on benches, writing in journals. 

"The garden idea just started getting bigger and bigger in my head," Raymond said.

But she needs your help to make it happen. 

Raymond has submitted a proposal to Thank A Million Teachers, and is vying for the grant from Farmers Insurance to build the "outdoor laboratory"—or garden—for Oakwood and River Valley students. The winner is decided based on number of votes to the website. Farmers Insurance will award up to thirty, $2,500 grants to the top six vote getters in each of the five regions during every voting period. The garden would be built 

Vote for Raymond's proposal.

"Students in this digital age do not spend as much time outside as they did in previous generations," Raymond wrote in her proposal. "Having technology at our fingertips is empowering, but focusing lessons on this only is not educating the whole child.

"It is our desire to bring learning outside the classroom and into the garden. Students are taught to journal and collect data. Now we’d like to reinforce that through horticulture, while exposing them to gardening techniques and healthy eating habits."

The garden—which Raymond estimates to be larger than a 25-foot by 25-foot classroom—will happen with or without the grants but the funds, along with help from Eagle Scout candidates, would expedite the process. Some components are already in place, including an enclosed compost heap and a donated rain barrel. 

Raymond is undaunted by the possibility of not receiving the grants. 

"If we don't get the grants, it just means the project will take more time, but more people will help."

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Lauren Traut March 18, 2014 at 09:42 AM
Hi, Mary. It would be located between Oakwood and River Valley schools, near where buses pick up.
kathy henrikson March 18, 2014 at 09:50 AM
Great work Sonya! Lemont Township has been partnering with River Valley for the past year. Students have visited the Heritage Woodland Sanctuary three times doing nature mapping! Good Luck with this effort nearby the schools.
Mark Miller March 18, 2014 at 11:39 AM
Could be an awfull idea. I seem to recall district 113A got into fim nancial trouble partly because of another grant for cardiovascular equipment installed in Old Quarry. If my memory is correct and that is a big if. I recall with the grant there was an obligation for ongoing equipment maintenance and documentation which ended up being quite a burden to the ongoing budgets. Seems like plants would not have such an expense or committment going forward. I just suggest that we make sure that is looked at prior to everyone jumping on the band wagon. I would not want us to accept a mere $2500.00 and be siging up for having to pay someone's salary, benefits, and retirement for the next 100 years.
Cathy Heatherington March 18, 2014 at 10:23 PM
Great idea Mrs. Raymond and best of luck to you. I will be sure to vote!
Debbie Mc Clafferty March 19, 2014 at 09:45 PM
Great idea Sonya...way to go . I voted


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