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09-02-05 Celina Intermediate School students learn by growing

By Janie Southard

  The fragrance of the deep pink roses at the entrance of the land lab at Celina Intermediate School is subtle, but lingering -- part of a wish come true.
The land lab behind Celina Intermediate School is at its seasonal peak right now and members of the public are always welcome to visit. Carol Hone, a sixth-grade teacher, and students Lizy Adkins, left, Andrea Bell and Justin Hoffman enjoy a few minutes outside admiring the plant life.<br>
  QSP, a school fundraising division of Readers Digest, has helped schools like Celina raise billions of dollars over the years for special projects. Two years ago Celina sixth-graders made wish lists on how to spend the $5,000 they earned from magazine and gift item sales.
  "People are usually surprised, but the kids almost always narrow their lists down to something that will benefit the school, like computers, encyclopedia and, of course, the land lab," says Ron Green, fifth-grade science teacher as he leads the way behind the school to the lab, which is currently at its peak.
  In addition to the students, parents and teachers also gave a thumbs up on the project. As well, many local businesses and individuals made donations.
  "It's just a great thing that students will enjoy for years and years to come," says intermediate school Principal Sally Tathum.  Once they learned they would get QSP money and decided on the land lab, the sixth-graders set to work putting together information on the local rainfall, average temperatures, various soils and so forth. Then they worked on computers designing the layout of the land lab.
Green says he requested quotes for plant materials from local nurseries and was surprised and pleased when Tim Homan of Homan Nursery and Landscaping sent back the list of several dozen different plants and trees all for the price of $1.
"You don't always hear about people like Mr. Homan who are so supportive of our schools and do so much," Green says, adding Homan also installed a vinyl fence at the west side of the lab.
  An eleventh hour addition by the kids to the lab was a pond surrounded by river rocks and a trickling waterfall, which called for some last minute changes by the teachers who did the actual planting during the summer of 2004.
  "In retrospect I suppose we should have let the kids do the planting, but at the time we didn't think it would be ethical," Green says.
  It is also teachers who sign up year-round to supervise the land lab for a week at a time including holidays and summer, which means they do any tending necessary and see that it's watered with the soaker hose.
  Green sees the land lab as one of perhaps four phases of similar installations. For example, he envisions a row of hardwood trees along the north boundary of school property leading to a pine forest behind West Elementary School.
  "It would be wonderful. The kids would learn so much. There's a lot of science and math and even English when they write about the land lab or one of the plants," Green says.
  And, then there are social studies, personal growth -- and funerals.
  On Wednesday, Carol Hone's sixth-graders wore black and trooped out to the land lab for a funeral for "I Can't," which is now buried under a rock near the river birch tree.
  "There's a lot of things we say to ourselves we can't do. The class buried all their I can'ts so now they don't have to worry about them anymore," explains Hone as she and three of her students examine some of the plants.
  Some of the I can'ts laid to rest included: I can't get along with my brother; I can't stop talking too much; I can't play basketball very well; and I can't fix a car engine.
  Although students have used up their wishes for the time being, a weather station with barometer, thermometer, rain gauge, an anemometer (to measure wind speed and direction) is high on the new list, at least for Green.
  "These can be very expensive or very cheap and you get what you pay for. But I'd like for us to have one of the old-fashioned kind, not the digital, so the kids can really learn how to determine the outside conditions, figure it out for themselves," Green says.


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