With garden tools and paint brushes in hand, more than 30 student volunteers descended on Poplar Elementary School in Fontana to revitalize a parched and neglected garden that is a memorial to the husband of a Poplar teacher who died fighting in Iraq.
They pulled weeds, picked up trash and created murals on playground walls as part of the effort.
When Marlon Rojas, a student at Cal Poly Pomona and who works in Poplar’s after-school program, watched students play handball on plain brick walls and read in the barren garden, he recognized a need for improvement and sought resources. This is when the president of the College of Education & Integrative Studies Council, Rachel Torres, stepped in.
“During a CEIS Council meeting, we were trying to figure out ways we can collaborate with other campus colleges and I mentioned the garden,” Rojas said. “So we reached out to different clubs to see who would be interested in helping with the project.”
Rojas and Torres rounded up volunteers, artists and tools for the April 23 cleanup.
The liberal studies and interdisciplinary general education departments donated paint supplies and garden tools. CEIS and graphic-design students sketched the murals that reflect messages of unity, patriotism, diversity and the love of learning.
This is one of several projects targeting Poplar. Plans are in the works for a planting project in October for “National Giving Day,” says environmental design student Gerry Rosales.
“Our goal is to create an entrance with plenty of native plants and colorful flowers,” he says. “We want plants that attract butterflies and plan to place mulch to conserve water so the garden is sustainable for the summer months.”
Poplar Principal Darlene Myers plans to adopt Cal Poly Pomona’s learn-by-doing approach to turn the garden into a learning experience.
“I want my students to participate in keeping it clean,” Myers says. “My students have already made birdhouses which we will use in the garden.”
Myers hopes to implement an ecosystem class on Saturdays, and she had benches placed there so students could read in the garden.
Liberal studies students who volunteer can now use this clean-up project as a service learning option for the LS 460S course.
To get involved in the Poplar Elementary cleanup project, contact the CEIS Council.