Robbinsdale Area Schools

Zachary Lane continues to expand outdoor space

What started as an outdoor garden in 2019 through a grant from the Seven Dreams Education Foundation continues to grow and expand. 

Zachary Lane Elementary School received a second Hands-On Learning Grant from Seven Dreams in 2022, which is allowing them to add pollination and sensory gardens and Kindness Rocks to their outdoor space. Students began planting the pollinator plants last week. 

Master gardeners from University of Minnesota Arboretum, along with ZLE parent and master gardener Ann Dybvig, have helped integrate learning from the garden into the curriculum. Last spring students were in the garden not only planting, but learning about pollinators and life cycles with the master gardeners. An after-school class led by the same master gardeners will be available to students later this fall so they can keep learning about the garden even outside the growing season. 

The outdoor classroom, of which gardens are an important component, now has places to sit. Former ZLE student Joshua Daniels built 30 Leopold benches for his Eagle Scout project over the summer. They are beautiful and seat up to three students per bench. 

The Zachary Lane garden also showcases the Kindness Rocks Project, a worldwide movement to support mental health. Talent development specialist and garden advisor Jenni Weinand hopes the garden bed with Kindness Rocks, with designs and messages painted by students, “accomplishes a sense of belonging for every student at ZLE. All of them will paint a rock and place it in the rock bed this year. The project reminds students how important it is to use words carefully and to support their friends. 

“I think simple acts of kindness have been lost over the past several years,” adds Weinand. “We need to remind everyone how to be a good person again and to focus on contributing only good things to our community. The words on the rocks represent the core values of our community and remind students that they are loved and cared about.”

Families volunteered over the summer to keep the raised beds and gardens watered and weeded, coming together as a community to care for the space. As the herbs and vegetables were ready to harvest, the school held a farmers market for the community along with their yearly Fun Run event.

Jenni Weinand says the garden project has gone far “beyond my imagination and expectations. All of the talents that individuals have at ZLE are being showcased in some way, shape or form.  It's been a saving grace during the pandemic to focus on something positive.”