“Growing Knowledge” – Supplying Water to an Educational Garden


Eric placing a board

I had the pleasure yesterday to work with eagle candidate Eric Duong, a team of Boy Scouts from Troop 799 and other young adults to build a water collection and containment unit. Eric developed his eagle project with Bob Argabright, “Bobby”,  who is a critical advocate for Oak Grove-Bellemeade (OGB) elementary school in Richmond, VA. OGB sits in the middle of a “in need” community on the south side of Richmond. Many of the children in this community start their lives with compounding adversities that further hamper their ability to engage in learning and build a skill set for their futures.

Bobby has develop several programs for the community using OGB as a base of operation. How he has been so successful comes from a life well-lived. Bobby worked many years at Chesapeake Corp building a strong skill set that he is graciously sharing with the community. Bobby was a “Turner”, he would come into a less than optimal market and holistically develop it. Looking at the people, the process, the gaps, and he would “turn” it into a better performer. Talk about luck… That is exactly the wisdom that a place like OGB needs to help develop these young learners.  I don’t know Bobby well, but his energy is easy to read and he likes to share his programmatic plans. One of Bobby’s strategies is to get the youth to take ownership of the various programs that he runs through OGB Elementary.

IMG_0949For example, older students at Collegiate hold a Saturday morning academy for Spanish speaking children to help them adapt to their new environment and better prepare for Richmond’s school curriculum.  He is also working with neighborhood youth to do the grounds keeping for the school’s field and gardens. Another key tenant in the plan is to have eagle scout candidates execute eagle projects for the school’s educational garden.

IMG_0953Bobby and I conversed throughout the day on his “growing” plans for the educational garden. The garden not only provides many children with their first experiences in cultivation and care, but there is a wealth of math and problem solving opportunity through the practical application of weight, time, volume, and astrological considerations.

Bobby mentioned he wants to have the kids consider how to calculate the amount of mulch required to cover a given part of the garden. He’s even considering advanced calculations like using seed growth instructions to calculate how much manual watering is required to support rainfall recommendations.  I think Bobby is on to something big here. When kids don’t know they are learning, they absorb so much more knowledge. I feel it is so consistent with one of my fundamental Paradigms of Awesomeness: “Apply a learned skill or experience, and it becomes yours forever”. I am really impressed with the programs that are coming out of this little corner of Richmond.

IMG_0956Yesterday a team of about 10-15 youth and adults gathered in the common area and went to work. There were many tasks to do, and many pizzas consumed in the making of this water tower. The educational garden is located in a wonderful common area between a playground, basketball court and the outdoor eating patio of the school. “Sancuary” is a good descriptor of this special place. Kids will not only learn from working in this garden, but in a neighborhood of shuttered buildings and un manicured spaces; they will hopefully see wonder in the organized rows of life growing from the ground.

Vandalism has been a problem in the past, but they have developed through the setbacks and provided an important example to all who engage with the campus.

It took several hours for these budding engineers to transfer Eric’s design into reality. The litnay of tasks included foundation leveling, board cutting, hole drilling, and then final assembly.  If you have not been part of scouting, you may not know that eagle projects are supposed to be “youth-led”. Meaning parents have to work diligently at not picking up a shovel or level help build unless specifically asked to. We also have to manage the level of “free advice” that is shared without a request for help. We do draw a line at safety and every once in a while there’s a “you might want to consider…” that is provided, but the scouts have to deal with real organization, leadership, delegation and problem-solving to accomplish the task.

IMG_0955                                        IMG_0951

I was impressed with Eric’s design for a water collector and containment unit.  An angled roof collects rain and gutters the water into a large water container. Users will connect a hose to a valve at the bottom of the tank. This will allow for this low maintenance tool to continually feed the garden with water when needed.  I found the final product inspiring and practical.




I could see this set up in other community parks or smaller versions would work for other applications. As you stroll through your  spring, maybe you will see the next place to “plant” a watering tower.

A chilly spring day, time well spent helping our kids learn through doing, on so many levels…


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