ATLANTIC CITY — Friday may have been the coldest day of 2019 so far, but staff at Atlantic City High School were already thinking about green grass and gardening.
Behind the school, a fenced-in area will serve as a soon-to-be landscaped garden. James Sarappa, owner of James Andrew Designs, unloaded a battery-powered weed whacker, hedge trimmer, chainsaw and blower from his van, as well as a large planter with daffodils and artichokes — just a sample of what can be grown in South Jersey.
“There’s hope for work, hope for hope here,” said Sarappa. “Gardening can bring out creativity. It’s very rewarding to take care of plants and to watch them flower and watch them grow.”
Sarappa designed a layout for the garden, which will feature different areas for botanical learning. From locally thriving flowers and produce to exotic plants, the plans seek to provide outdoor learning experiences and engage students’ senses.
Cookie Till, owner of Steve and Cookie’s by the Bay restaurant in Margate, helped facilitate the donation.
“Anything with food and and eating well and kids is something that is close to my heart,” she said.
The donation was made possible through AtlantiCare’s Growing Green program. According to the AtlantiCare website, the gardens supported by the program are to improve the nutrition practices of youth and adults through the growth of healthy, sustainable foods complemented by wellness and nutrition programming.
Jonathan Lelli, a special education teacher at Atlantic City High School, hopes the garden project will help students explore different ways to learn.
“Hands-on learning is an excellent type of learning because they can apply the things they have been taught,” Lelli said. “This will also help students transition in to the workforce, so that when they graduate school they can gain an interest in something that they didn’t have an interest in before.”
Along with environmental sciences and nutrition, Lelli said the garden project will teach students about careers in agriculture, landscaping and small business.