Dig it — Plans for a new native plant habitat and student maker space are now in the works after Alexander Valley School received a grant from the Lowes Community Award.


Lowes Community Award will provide funds for new native plant space, maker space

The campus garden at the Alexander Valley School (AVS) will soon get a facelift.

The school is the latest recipient of the Lowes Community Award and the award’s $2,500 contribution will help pay for materials and labor for a new native plant habitat and a student maker space.

Garden teacher Anne Loarie and physical education teacher Tiffany Bellize helped secure the grant, which Lowes gives to certain community programs during the holiday season.

“They wanted to offer it to our school after the fires and how close it came and how many families were impacted,” Loarie said.

Loarie, who has been teaching at AVS for six years, is excited for the project.

“I love to be able to keep pushing the envelope out here … I always have something up my sleeve,” Loarie said. “I think this is the interest Lowe’s had in reaching out to us: to help give some love and light to our students. They certainly felt all of the anxiety and stress that all of the adults in our community felt and I hope that this project can provide some healing and stress release through nature and art.”

The habitat area will serve as a space for native plants, birds and other local flora and fauna and will help create more biodiversity in an area that’s surrounded by grapevines.

“The kids have a regular schedule out here and we’re really trying to integrate our sciences into our garden program, so a habitat project has been on my mind for a really long time,” Loarie said.

The habitat will house several plant beds with native pollinator species such as sage, California fuschia, coyote mint, manzanita and coffee berry. 

It will also include plants that can serve as a small shelter for animals. Loarie said following the fire when school resumed there were several animals, including a white crane, that had been sheltering in the school’s garden.

“We’ll also have a ‘lizard castle’ dry area with rocks where lizards can hang out and play in,” she said.

The workspace will be a place for kids to work and play. Loarie said inspiration to create a space came when a tree had to be taken down. Limbs, branches and stumps were salvaged by students and used to create a small play area where they could use their imagination to play or create their own forts.The kids got really excited about it and they squirreled away all of these pieces of wood and started creating all of these structures out of them,” Loarie said, pointing to a circle of tree stumps set up behind some foliage. “Mr. Reno (the school’s principal) and I observed that and thought how cool it would be to build a deliberate maker space where they could build and create.”

The garden currently has vegetable, perennial and herb gardens and a greenhouse.

Work on the habitat project will start with a volunteer work party on Dec. 7 and 8, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lowes will also provide volunteers. Lunch will be provided.

The school is in need of non-treated boards, wood blocks of all shapes and sizes and large pieces of cardboard. 

Loarie said of the importance of the outdoor space, “School is really demanding and rigorous and there is a lot of structure, which is good, but I think it is also important for kids to have places that have less structure so they can create, explore their minds and work together."

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