Community Garden Gets A Pond Thanks To Class Of 2016

During the summer, almost 150 incoming freshmen (Class of 2016) got the chance to experience high school classes through the Freshman Academy Program at Pueblo. For eleven days students took scheduled classes in Math, Statistics, English, Science, and Study Skills learning a multiple array of subjects and the organization of the campus to help them prepare for their first year in high school. 

All the summer program classes laid the foundation for the future academics these students would encounter at Pueblo, with an emphasis on the Core Standards and STEM projects. For example, in science, the students were challenged to design and create a pond ecosystem to replace the old drained cement pond located in the area of the new campus community garden. 

Pond in Community Garden before renovation.

First, student teams used classroom laptops to research about the ecological aspects of pond wetlands.  Then they brainstormed about different pond designs. Nathan Novak, a local landscaping expert and owner of Canyon Pondscapes, worked with the student teams to draw out pond design plans that were within the renovation parameters. Each class voted on team proposed designs and a consensus was reached. For four days each class eagerly participated in bringing this design to fruition despite the June heat. Under the direct supervision of Mr. Novak and Mrs. Straub, their science teacher, the students used a jackhammer and sledgehammer to break apart two feet of concrete to deepen the pond and remove the loosened concrete. 

Students use jackhammers to loosen concrete.

The students then carted in dirt to shape the pond to their design and laid down a liner to prevent water seepage. Rocks and gravel were placed in and around the pond to hold the liner as well as create a natural look. 

The next step was the creation of the water fall.  Every class wanted to see this to be the main attraction of the pond. This meant the coordination of many dirt toting wheelbarrow teams and lots of dust.  Before they knew it, a hill of dirt was ready for rock placements to create the waterfall. 

Students hauling dirt to shape pond.

Finally water was added, the pump turned on and manure was placed along the edges of the pond for future planting of flowers. A pond and waterfall emerged from the ideas and hard work of these new Pueblo Warriors. 

The students felt a great accomplishment not only in completing a student driven project, but in learning how to work as a team to benefit the community by building a wetland pond ecosystem. 

Rocks going into place for new pond.

As a final assignment, the students wrote about their experience.  Overwhelmingly they wrote that despite the oppressive heat the experience was exciting, fun, and rewarding (the following student names are changed for privacy). Sam cherished the fact that he got to, “know how it feels to work like a grownup.” As Lisa pointed out, “a lot of sweat and hard work went into building something pretty that didn’t work and was plain before”. 

Finished Pond in Pueblo Community Garden

Many students also wrote about how they found the teamwork rewarding in accomplishing this goal, as well as, a great chance to meet their fellow classmates. A few talked about the ecological and physiological benefits of the finished product and the hopes to use this area in their future at Pueblo. As Ana wrote, “a successfully built pond provides a feeling of restfulness in an area of interest”.  So many voiced their interest in visiting the pond when they return in August, like Lucy who wrote, “getting the chance to see a pond come alive was (an) amazing experience, every day we saw it get better and better. Our pond will be so beautiful I can’t wait to see the final product.” 

The students did not get to see the addition of plant and animal life, but water plants and fish will be added this summer in order to balance the pond ecosystem. Thanks to the Freshman Academy 2012 students, this new wetland pond ecosystem can be visited and studied by Pueblo students as well as enjoyed by those using the community garden for years to come.

Thanks Elaine Straub for the story & pictures.

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