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Tending Garden Therapeutic For Md. Students

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SALISBURY, Md. (AP) — A memorial garden maintained by special education students at Wicomico High is soon to be joined by more extensive landscaping.

With work overseen by special education assistants Nancy Derickson and Gail McFarlan, the school has teamed up with the Lower Shore Land Trust to plant two large rain gardens in the courtyard and fill them with colorful native plants including blue flag iris, hibiscus, purple coneflower, coral bells, tall garden phlox, Christmas fern and blue-eyed grass.

School officials said the bowl-shaped gardens will help collect stormwater runoff from roofs, driveways and other hard surfaces — filtering out pollutants and helping students learn about the interconnection of gardens, wildlife and the environment.

Watching as a few students water plants and weed the beds next to a burbling fountain, Derickson said coming out to the gardens has therapeutic benefits, and keeping the courtyards clean and well-maintained improves the learning environment for the whole school.

“I like this place,” said Jessica Insley, a student who, for about two years, has helped with the garden planted in memory of Wicomico High School teachers who have passed away.

“This is really nice,” she said. “I have so much fun and don’t get bored like I do in class.”

Inspired after teacher Gail Mariner of Beaver Run Elementary told her of a similar project at her school, McFarlan and Derickson said the kids were happy to get outside and contribute to the school.

Derickson said an earlier penny fundraiser raised about $300 for the project and she hoped further plant sales would provide the rest of what was needed.

Enhanced by a greenhouse donated to the school a couple years ago by a grant from Lowe’s, the program has slowly expanded as sprinklers and newly seeded grass bring life to the once plain courtyards.

Derickson said she hoped to involve science classes in working with the transitions students as ground is broke on the rain gardens. She said some of the more able students will help dig the beds on the expected start date of May 17.

The community is invited to donate $4 to sponsor a plant to be added to the gardens. Checks can be submitted to Wi-Hi by June 10. To contribute, contact Nancy Derickson at 410-726-4414 or Christy Hallman at 410-641-4467.

School officials also offered thanks to the Chesapeake Bay Trust for financial support of the project.

Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., http://www.delmarvanow.com/

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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