We are ready to grow!

When we first toured OFE, way back in olden times of 2012, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful gardens and arboretum. Probably because they were in stark contrast to my yard.

At that time, they were maintained by one very dedicated volunteer named Merrin Noonan. She was up at the school, 5 days a week for several hours each day, working in the arboretum and teaching the kids, along with Nancy Greig, about gardening and plants.

Her daughter went on to attend Frank Black and in the year she left, we realized how much work she was doing, because no volunteer could possibly fill those shoes. She had a lot of heart and talent. ❤️

So with funds earned at the auction, we embarked on a partnership with Urban Harvest.

After working with them for two years and receiving some feedback from teachers, we decided it might be time for a change.

We take our role as stewards of the funds we raise very seriously and want to make sure we are getting the absolute best bang for our buck.

So over the summer, your first VP, Charity Autry, and the outdoor learning chairs, Holly Wright and Lindsey Levy, researched other companies that might be able to make our gardens grow.

Enter Stephanie Baker from Ready to Grow. We are very excited about this collaboration for a variety of reasons.

First, there will be a science classroom component that will involve Ms. Williams.

Second, Ready to Grow will also incorporate the arboretum area into their scope of work and have already begun to take on its care and maintenance.

Third, Ready to Grow was not only willing but excited to work with the school on the schedule the school thought would provide the best learning experience for the kids with minimal disruption to class time.

Ready to Grow also agreed with the school that community style beds would be better for learning and easier for the kids to see what was going on while they were having a lesson compared to the individual class beds. Community beds also help maintain the overall health of the gardens (read into that: some teachers don’t have green thumbs and their plants die the second they are put into the ground. Kind of like at my house).

So who is Ready to Grow? Here is a little information about their founder, Stephanie Baker:

Stephanie Baker is the owner of Ready to Grow Gardens, a business she started in 2002 after completing her Certified Texas Master Gardener training with special recognition for over 200 volunteer hours working with students in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD. Master Gardener certification provided experience and extensive training in a variety of horticulture areas. Since that time she has continued to study the best practices for educational gardens and travels extensively to continually add content to her program.

For the last sixteen years Stephanie has worked with Houston area schools to design and build school gardens and develop a unique curriculum that enriches learning in unique outdoor environments. To date, she has created thirty elementary and early education learning gardens, where she and her staff are the garden educators. Ready to Grow Gardens Garden Day Program is embraced as an important part of the science curriculum at twenty-six schools in four school districts for the 2018-2019 school year.

Stephanie grew up in the Inwood Forest area in the 70’s and has wonderful memories of spending summers across the street at the Oak Forest Library. She has two adult children and two young granddaughters who all live in the Houston area. She is thrilled to begin work with Oak Forest Elementary students this year!

You may have seen Stephanie and her crew out working already. They are changing some class beds and cleaning out the arboretum. The first day with kids is October 29th. Be sure to ask your bobcat all about it!

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