School budgets are tight.
When it comes to squeezing those extra dollars out, funds are often applied toward children and learning rather than the outward facade of buildings and school yards. At least this is Beaver Creek Principal Judy McBride’s philosophy.
But McBride is not without a sense of the importance of appearances and the creation of beautiful surroundings. It is just that there is very little money available within the small country school’s budget to fully landscape the school's new courtyard and empty spaces that accompany the campus expansion.
This is where volunteers come in.
The flowers, vegetable gardens and even the decorative rock work that can been seen on the school’s campus comes from the students, teachers and volunteers of the community. Grant money and personal donations fund the projects.
As you enter the administrative building, flower beds full with poppies, daisies, and other varieties of color welcome guests. These beds were planted by volunteer Chris Sawtelle of Lake Montezuma. Sawtelle recently moved to the area from Flagstaff. She began her work with the Beaver Creek School District as a substitute teacher and aide. She said the front of the school looked so bare she just new she could do something to fix it.
"I know the school doesn’t have a budget for landscaping and the money is spent on the kids, so I decided to put flowers out front," Sawtelle said. "I then saw an empty space in the teachers' courtyard and decided to plant flowers there, too. I really think it is important for kids to see you caring for your surroundings. I think it counteracts vandalism."
Donna Pfeffer and Ilene Jay felt the same way. This is why they decided to build a school garden a year ago. The Garden Project was funded by a grant through the Youth Garden Grants Program and the Arizona Department of Education. But the grant money just helped the garden get started. Other groups such as the Lake Montezuma Kiwanis, Lake Montezuma Garden Club, and Yavapai County Cooperative Extension Agency have donated their time and money to the project. On top of that, volunteers like Vernon Foster, who donated seeds from the Native Seed Search, did a talk and blessing on the traditional Native American garden.
Volunteers from Gardens For Humanity helped give students ideas. A workshop held by Jerry English of Payson taught kids about worm gardens and composting.
The garden is broken up into a variety of spaces. Each class is responsible for its care. There is the salsa garden, the flower garden, vegetable garden and even the bunny garden. The bunny garden and bird feeders are to help defer the desert wildlife that feast on the greens when nobody is around.
"The quail and the rabbits eat a lot of our seedlings," she said. "We have bird fencing on some of the smaller plants. We have bird feeders too, but they still eat the plants."
The school’s garden club tends to the gardens during the school year. During the summer, parents and teachers watch over the flourishing plot, along with some summer school students.
"I helped with the garden club," Sawtelle said. "Every single child enjoyed gardening — in creating things, not destroying. We all saw the transformation of the kids. I think kids need a connection with something that they feel matters and that adults value. Kids want to do something meaningful with their time and have a sense of ownership. Plus they are seeing where the food they eat every day comes from."
Because the garden has become such a success and beautiful space, the Beaver Creek Garden Club will include the garden on their tour next year.
Also stemming from the garden inspiration are Girl Scouts and wanted a space of their own. Girl Scout leader Teri Regan said the girls adopted the empty spot near the administration building where they decided to plant wildflowers. Taking their cookie money, they also bought a bird feeder and decorative fence that they will build in front of the bed.
Science teacher Tammy Naef is jumping in on the landscaping bandwagon, too. She has applied for a grant to install a pond. With the pond she plans to have fish and use its ecosystem as a part of her science studies.
Despite all the volunteer efforts, plenty of empty space still exists. The kids are willing to fill it but they are in need of money and plant donations. Pfeffer said they will host fund-raising activities during the fall and on Earth Day.
For more information on how you can help support the school, call Donna Pfeffer at 567-5620 or Beaver Creek School at 567-4631.